The Mysterious Golden Dove

Glowing Golden Dove
When I looked out the window and saw this bird at the feeder, I honestly thought it was some rare or hybrid species of dove and not a Mourning Dove. It was the coloring that threw me off. It was about 10 shades paler than any Mourning Dove I'd ever seen. I would have described it as a pale yellow color with an almost golden tint.

I have seen more than my share of Mourning Doves, and in fact there were three others in the yard when I saw this one. The others were of various ages and ages, but none were pale yellow with an sheen of glimmering gold. Patches of iridescence on fully grown male birds is common, but this one appeared to be yellow all over. The eyering wasn't even blue!

Young Mourning Dove 2011
This young bird was on the ground just a few feet away from the golden yellow dove. A brown bird heavily spotted with black is what I'd expect to see from an immature Mourning Dove. Raggedy white tipped feathers can cause young Mourning Doves to look scaly and patchy.

blue eyelid
After taking about 50 shots of the pale dove in the feeder, I caught a glimpse of a familiar blue color when the bird closed it's eye for a second. That was my first clue that I was indeed looking at a Mourning Dove. Maybe a simple pigmentation abnormality caused the pale yellow color I was seeing. A single glance at the Mourning Dove page of my new Crossley ID Guide (more about the giant picture book in a future post) was all it took for me to realize I was mistaken. This was a juvenile Mourning Dove, all right. It was almost identical to the juvenile Mourning Dove pictured in the book right in front of me. There was no mention of an iridescent golden glow, however.

modo feathers close
A VERY close look at the bird showed white fringed feathers that made it appear scaly, but no yellow or gold colors at all. The golden glow was an illusion created by reflected yellow sunlight hitting the white fringes at just the right angle. Perhaps the effect was intensified by the yellow siding on the house and the yellow leaves of water starved grass below. I don't know. All I can say for sure is that my eyes deceived me when I was blinded by the light. :)!


  1. Sweet little thing!!! Isn't Crossley's great?? I had to leave mine behine in TX because it was so big and heavy. I love doves. Great blog!! I've enjoyed my little 'scroll' through a few of your posts. I hail from Mass. Now I spend a few weeks there in the fall and in the spring, just passing through.

  2. Glad you solved the mystery ...A Birder Sherlock Holmes.;)


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