CJ Mucklow: 2 new birds around town
February 26, 2010
Steamboat Springs — If you live in Steamboat II or Old Town, you may have noticed two new birds living amongst us this winter. The first is an exotic bird and the second is a native bird.
The Eurasian dove showed up here a few years ago and now makes its home in the urban environment. This dove does not migrate south each year like our native mourning dove. The scientific name, Streptopeleia decaocto, literally means a collar (streptos) dove (peleia).
In Greek mythology, Decaocto was an overworked, underpaid servant girl. The gods heard her prayers for help and changed her into a dove so she could escape her misery. The dove's call still echoes the mournful cries of her former life.
This species originates in Asia. This dove is larger-bodied than the native mourning dove and has a distinctly different call, sounding like koo-kooo, koo with the accent on the second beat. The male often makes a display koo sounding like "mair." Their mating display flight is similar to that of the mourning dove.
Although these birds are exotic, you can hunt them during the regular dove season in the fall, and they do not have daily bag limit.
The second town bird is a native species called a Columbia sharp-tailed grouse. These birds were very close to being listed as an endangered species a few years ago; now, they seem to be expanding their range in Northwest Colorado.
Sharp-tailed grouse weigh in at about 1.5 pounds. They have distinct black V-shaped marks on the breast feathers. Compared with other grouse in Colorado, sharp-tails have a frosty appearance because of white spotting on the body and wing feathers. The conspicuous white spots on the wing feathers are an easy way to distinguish sharp-tails from dusky (formerly known as the blue grouse) and sage grouse.
The Columbia sharp-tailed grouse population in other western states is not growing, and it's thought that our sharp-tails remain the largest intact population of any place in the United States. These birds have been seen in Steamboat II and West Acres. They're in town because of the abundance of berries and fruit found in the urban landscape.
Sharp-tailed grouse also can be hunted in the fall outside of town limits. See the Colorado Division of Wildlife for more information concerning hunting seasons and bag limits.
The author is indebted to the studies and publications of Chipper Woods Bird Observatory Inc. and the Colorado Division of Wildlife for the information provided in this column.
CJ Mucklow is a Colorado State University extension agent.