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6 Fascinating Facts About the Bare-eyed Ground Dove of South America

The Bare-eyed Ground Dove, scientifically known as Metriopelia morenoi, is a small bird species that belongs to the Columbidae family. It is native to South America, particularly in the Andes of Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina.

These birds are often found in open grasslands, scrublands, and agricultural areas. In this article, we will delve deeper into the identification, plumages, and molts of the Bare-eyed Ground Dove.


Field Identification

The Bare-eyed Ground Dove is a small bird species, with a body length of around 21 cm and a weight of approximately 68 g. Its plumage is primarily gray-brown, with a pale greenish-gray head, neck, and breast, and a reddish-brown rump.

The bird’s most distinctive feature is its bare eye skin, which is blue-gray colored. Its bill is black, short, and slender, and they have short wings with pointed tips.

Their tail is short and rounded.

Similar Species

The Bare-eyed Ground Dove shares a similar appearance with the Chilean Pigeon and the Picui Ground Dove. However, the former has black lores and undertail-coverts, while the latter has buff-toned bare skin around the eyes.


The Bare-eyed Ground Dove has two primary plumages; the breeding or nuptial plumage and the non-breeding or basic plumage. The breeding plumage has a more vibrant color, especially in males, to attract potential mates.

Additionally, during breeding season, males also display courtship behavior. In contrast, the non-breeding plumage is duller, with less contrast between the feathers.


The Bare-eyed Ground Dove undergoes two molts each year, the pre-basic molt and the pre-alternate molt. The pre-basic molt happens during the non-breeding season in which they replace all their plumage.

On the other hand, the pre-alternate molt occurs during the breeding season in which they replace specific feathers around the head and neck area.

Furthermore, the Bare-eyed Ground Dove has a juvenile plumage that is different from its adult plumage, which is referred to as the immature plumage.

In this stage, the bird has fewer feathers, and its appearance is less defined. However, as they mature, their feathers become more well-defined.

In conclusion, the Bare-eyed Ground Dove is a small bird species that is distinguished by its bare eye skin and blue-gray eye color. Its plumage changes depending on the breeding season, and it undergoes two molts each year.

As this bird species is considered a significant part of South America’s ecosystem, understanding their identification, plumages, and molts is crucial for their conservation.

Systematics History

The Bare-eyed Ground Dove, also known as the Bare-faced Ground Dove, has evolved over millions of years through natural processes of genetic drift, mutation, and adaptation to their surroundings. Systematics is the branch of biology that studies the evolutionary relationships of living organisms based on their physical and genetic characteristics.

The following sections discuss the systematics history of the Bare-eyed Ground Dove, including geographic variation, subspecies, related species, and historical changes to their distribution.

Geographic Variation

The Bare-eyed Ground Dove, Metriopelia morenoi, has a relatively stable population size across its natural range, which includes parts of Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. One of the physical characteristics that vary geographically is the size of the bird, with southern populations being larger than those from the north.

Some genetic differences were also observed between different populations of Bare-eyed Ground Doves. In general, however, such species is not known to have extensive genetic variation.


According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Bare-eyed Ground Dove has two recognized subspecies, namely the morenoi and arremonops. The Metriopelia morenoi morenoi is found in western Argentina and Chile, while the Metriopelia morenoi arremonops is found in south-central Bolivia.

The two subspecies are distinguished from each other by minor differences in plumage coloration, size, and bill shape.

Related Species

The Bare-eyed Ground Dove is part of the genus Metripoelia, a group of small ground-dwelling doves found primarily in South America. Along with other species belonging to this genus, the Bare-eyed Ground Dove is part of the Columbidae family, which includes nearly 350 species worldwide.

Other ground-dwelling doves related to Metriopelia morenoi include the Rufous-fronted Ground Dove, Brown-capped Ground Dove, and the Andean Ground Dove.

Historical Changes to Distribution

The range of the Bare-eyed Ground Dove has undergone significant changes since the species first evolved. Historical changes in distribution include both natural and human-induced changes, making it necessary to understand the species’ evolutionary history.

The scientific community knows that, over time, the Bare-eyed Ground Dove’s range has shifted due to changes in climatic patterns, migration, and the arrival of humans in the region. Natural causes of range shifts for the Bare-eyed Ground Dove are due to glaciations and climate change, which have caused the species to migrate and adapt to new regions.

For example, during the Pleistocene, large glaciers existed in parts of southern South America, which caused the bird’s natural range to contract. As climate conditions improved, the Bare-eyed Ground Dove was able to colonize new areas where food and habitat were of greater abundance.

Human-induced changes in the Bare-Eyed Ground Dove range have been wrought through habitat loss and hunting.

Habitat loss is due to various agricultural and urbanization activities that have resulted in the loss of grassland habitats.

Hunting, on the other hand, has decreased the population size of this species, with their eggs and chicks being collected for food in some areas. Additionally, climate change may also impact the Bare-eyed Ground Dove, as its natural habitat is likely to undergo changes as temperatures rise and rainfall patterns shift.

As human activities precipitate additional changes to the environment, the future of this bird species will continue to be severely impacted.


In the study of biology, understanding the systematics of a species is essential for its conservation. The Bare-eyed Ground Dove’s systematics history highlights how the species has evolved over time through natural processes such as mutation, genetic drift, and adaptation to their environment.

The species is part of a larger group of ground-dwelling doves and its geographical variation, subspecies, and changes in distribution reflect natural and human-induced factors. By working to preserve the natural habitats of the Bare-eyed Ground Dove, humans can help ensure that this species will thrive for generations to come.


The Bare-eyed Ground Dove is a ground-dwelling bird species that inhabits open areas such as grasslands, shrublands, and agricultural fields. They are mainly found in altitudes ranging from 1500 to 4500 meters above sea level in the Andes of South America.

These birds live in a variety of habitats, from natural areas to those disturbed by human activities. In Argentina, the Bare-eyed Ground Dove is often present in grasslands, including different types, from tall and dense to short and sparse vegetation.

In Bolivia, they can be found around agriculture fields, including manmade habitats such as irrigation systems and dams. In Chile, they are mostly observed in the lowlands or Andean slopes with shrubby vegetation.

They are also frequent in coastal areas and near cities of Chile.

Movements and Migration

Bare-eyed Ground Doves are generally sedentary species, staying throughout the year in their habitat. As the regions where they are found tend not to undergo drastic season changes, they do not need to migrate.

However, some sources report that some populations of Bare-eyed Ground Doves may undertake short-distance movements in search of better habitats or resources. These birds are known to be terrestrial, meaning they spend most of their time on the ground, walking and foraging in open areas.

They rarely take flight, and when they do, they often fly low and in short distances, and for short periods of time. The Bare-eyed Ground Dove is believed to cope well with human activity and development in their habitats.

In cities, they can be seen amongst gardens and parks. Such species also closely associate with cattle, as they remove parasites from cattle and have adapted to forage in the habitat created by grazing.

One study found that Bare-eyed Ground Doves may exhibit temporal niche partitioning, a behavior where one bird species can avoid competition by using a particular resource at a different time to other species. In contrast, another study demonstrated territoriality among males of Bare-eyed Ground Doves.

While the species tend to stay within their habitats throughout the year, variation in the abundance between different areas of its range. This variation in population numbers is believed to be due to natural factors such as changes in local weather patterns and predation pressures.


The Bare-eyed Ground Dove’s habitat is primarily in open areas such as grasslands, shrublands, and agricultural fields. They live in various habitats from natural to manmade, making them resilient to change.

They are typically sedentary, staying close to their habitats throughout the year, although some populations may undertake short-distance movements to find better resources or habitats. The Bare-eyed Ground Dove’s behavior towards human activity and their interaction with other bird species demonstrates their adaptability to varying environments.

Precious information has been gathered regarding a few population parameters is necessary to improve the life of Bare-eyed Ground Doves.

Diet and Foraging

The Bare-eyed Ground Dove is a small bird species that feeds primarily on small seeds, insects, and other small creatures that they find on the ground. The following sections describe their feeding behavior, diet, and metabolism and temperature regulation.


Bare-eyed Ground Doves are primarily terrestrial, meaning they spend most of their time on the ground, walking and foraging for food. They forage alone or in pairs and are most active during the early morning and late afternoon when the temperature is cooler.

They may occasionally peck berries or fruit that are available around the periphery of their habitats.


Bare-eyed Ground Doves have a varied diet that includes small seeds, especially from grasses that are abundant in their habitat, which they pick up from the ground. They also feed on small insects, such as beetles, ants, and spiders, which they frequently eat for their protein source.

These birds either catch their prey in mid-air or use their feet to pick up insects or seeds from the ground.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

Due to the Bare-eyed Ground Dove’s habitat’s usual high altitudes and Andean environment, they have evolved specific physiological adaptations that help regulate their metabolism and temperature. Their basal metabolic rate is lower than that of birds residing in lower altitudes, helping them conserve energy and use less oxygen in their metabolism.

Additionally, they have a higher red blood cell count and hemoglobin concentration, which helps to carry oxygen more efficiently through their bloodstream at atmospheric pressures found at higher elevations. The Bare-eyed Ground Dove’s body temperature is also regulated through behavioral adaptations, such as spending most of their day in shaded and covered ground locations.

This behavior helps them avoid exposure to the sun’s heat during the hottest part of the day, which could cause dehydration or potentially result in the loss of body temperature.

Sounds and Vocal


The Bare-eyed Ground Dove has a variety of calls used in communication with other members of the species. This communication behavior is generally used to express territorial claims, locate other birds, or advertise breeding displays.

The following section discusses their vocal behavior in greater detail.


Male and female Bare-eyed Ground Doves have distinct vocalizations; their calls are relatively simple and consist of sequences of cooing or crooning sounds. One of the most common calls is a soft, guttural koooo, which is considered to be the contact call used for locating or recognizing other members of the species.

Additionally, males develop other vocalizations during the breeding season, such as cooing or wing flapping as part of courtship displays. Courtship displays involve males puffing out their chests, fanning their tails, and bowing their heads as they call.

This behavior is exhibited to display their feathers’ beautiful ornamental colors and attract potential mates. In addition to these calls, the Bare-eyed Ground Dove has alarm calls that are used to warn other members of the species of potential danger.

When alarmed, they make a distinctive single-note call repeated several times, which may alert other birds nearby to flee or hide.


The Bare-eyed Ground Dove’s diet comprises primarily small seeds and insects, which they forage from the ground. Their metabolism and temperature regulation has adapted to their habitat’s unique conditions, which includes a lower basal metabolic rate and different oxygen-carrying capacity in their bloodstream.

Their vocal behavior and communication involve various cooing and other calls, including warning calls and courtship displays, which help to maintain social structure among the species. Understanding the Bare-eyed Ground Dove’s diet, foraging, and vocal behavior is crucial for conservation efforts, as it helps to identify their habitats and monitor their population numbers.


The behavior of the Bare-eyed Ground Dove is quite fascinating and helps the bird species to survive and adapt to its environment. The following sections describe their locomotion, self-maintenance, agonistic behavior, sexual behavior, and breeding behavior.


The Bare-eyed Ground Dove is a terrestrial bird that moves on the ground by walking and pecking at the ground to search for food. When alarmed, these birds quickly move away by taking short flight distances across their habitats.

However, when they do fly, their motion is relatively slow and unsteady, making them more vulnerable to potential predators.


The Bare-eyed Ground Dove has specific self-maintenance behavior, mostly related to the care of their feathers. These birds use their bills to preen their feathers, arranging them into the correct alignment.

They also use their bills to remove remnants of their last meal or parasites that may affect their health. Agonistic


The number of Bare-eyed Ground Doves in a particular area may lead to competition amongst males for potential mates and available resources, such as food or water.

In such situations, male birds engage in agonistic behavior such as display of dominance, log-beak combat, and chasing. When challenged, dominant males signal to their opponents using specific vocalizations and intimidate their opponents through their behavior.



During breeding season, males develop vividly colored feathers on their neck, chest, and crown, which they display during courtship. Courtship displays include flapping wings, bowing their heads with bills pointing down, and flashing their brightly colored feathers.

Such behaviors are sometimes accompanied by vocalizations to attract potential mating partners.


The Bare-eyed Ground Dove typically breeds throughout the year, and it is monogamous. The nesting process involves a specific set of behaviors, including mate selection, site selection, nest building, and caring for the eggs.

Mate Selection: During the breeding season, males search for potential mates by displaying their vividly colored feathers and performing courtship displays, including cooing and wing flapping. Site Selection: Once they have found a mate, the pair then searches for a suitable location for their nest.

They typically build their nests on the ground, hidden in vegetation, or even in manmade structures. Nest Building: The male has the primary responsibility of building the nest, while the female assists in gathering materials.

Nests are simple ground scrapes consisting of leaves, twigs, and grass. Caring for the Eggs: These birds lay two white eggs per clutch and are incubated by both male and female members of the pair.

Eggs hatch ten to twelve days after laying, and the chicks are fed with regurgitated food by both parents.

Demography and Populations

The Bare-eyed Ground Dove experience a varied pattern of population density due to environmental factors, including habitat destruction, climate change and anthropogenic alterations. Their population size varies from region to region, and their long-term population trend is unknown in most areas.

Furthermore, some people also view them as a pest, leading to illegal hunting, particularly in agricultural areas. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the Bare-eyed Ground Dove as Least Concern on the Red List of Threatened Species.

However, the population size is rapidly declining due to habitat loss and degradation. Therefore, long-term monitoring of the Bare-eyed Ground Dove is necessary to ensure it’s the preservation of this species.

In conclusion, the Bare-eyed Ground Dove exhibits unique behavior, such as territoriality, mating, and nesting. Understanding such behavior is crucial for preserving this species.

As their populations undergo rapid decline due to habitat loss and hunting, conservation efforts are necessary to protect them. If humans can take appropriate measures and control the human activities that threaten the Bare-eyed Ground Dove’s habitat, their populations are likely to remain stable and help maintain the ecological balance of South America.

The Bare-eyed Ground Dove is a fascinating and unique bird species found in parts of South America, inhabiting open grasslands, scrublands, and agricultural areas. This bird has evolved specific behavior and physiological adaptations to fit its environment, such as their low baseline metabolic rate and specific vocalizations.

Their diet and foraging behavior, as well as their breeding and demographic patterns, help conserve the species and ensure its stability in a changing environment. The significant decline in population caused by habitat destruction and hunting calls for urgent conservation, making it necessary to comprehend the Bare-eyed Ground Dove’s behavior

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