Streamlined, mid-sized columbid with small head and long, pointed tail. Males: 26.5 to 34 cm. Female: 22.5 to 31 cm. Color grayish blue or grayish brown above, buffy below. Black spots on wing coverts and behind eye. Wings and tail feathers gray except for black-bordered white tips on tail. Delicate, black bill; dull red legs and feet. Eyes dark brown bordered by bluish skin. Adult male slightly more colorful than female. Male head with bluish crown and nape, female with brownish (Mirarchi and Basket 1994).
For a comprehensive review of the conservation status, habitat use, and ecology of this and other Montana bird species, please see Marks et al. 2016, Birds of Montana.
Western Hemisphere Range
Arrive 2 to 4 weeks earlier east of Divide than west. Bozeman migration period: April 20 to May 20 and August to September 10; no peaks.
Species has tremendous adaptability. Generally shuns deep woods or extensive forest and selects more open woodlands and edges between forest and prairie biomes for nesting. Human alteration of original vegetations is generally beneficial for this species, with creation of opening in extensive forest and plowing of grasslands for cereal-grain production. Additional habitat created with planting of trees and shrubs in cities, towns, and suburbs (Mirarchi and Baskett 1994).
Mostly seeds (99%). Insignificant amounts of animal matter and green forage may be acquired incidentally. Principal food items vary by region and immediate locale. Feeds almost entirely on ground (Mirarchi and Baskett 1994).
Nests primarily at woodland or grassland edge, usually in trees but readily on ground in absence of suitable trees or shrubs. Eggs are short, subelliptical to elliptical. White in color with no markings. Clutch size is normally 2 but reports of 3 to 4 not uncommon (Mirarchi and Baskett 1994). Nesting is in June and early July. In the Fortine area, egg dates were from June 25 to July 21. Some late nests in August and September, suggest that repeat nesting is occurring.