Whitewings a welcome surprise for dove opener

White-winged doves, not usually common in Kansas, were surprisingly common Saturday morning in McPherson County.

Seeing a pair of doves flying over a sunflower field isn’t such a big deal.

It made my weekend, though, when a pair over the McPherson Valley Wetlands jetted by with obvious white stripes on their wings.

It was the first time I’d seen white-winged doves this side of about Dodge City, and maybe the third time I’d seen the species in Kansas.

At the parking lot I learned the pair were far from alone. Probably at least 24 whitewings were shot over the 30 acre field that was reserved for youth dove hunters and their mentors.

They were the first many of the veteran dove hunters had seen in central Kansas. Brent Thiede, the wildlife area’s biologist, had only seen one on the area in about ten years of working the combined wetlands and uplands west of McPherson. Some serious Kansas ornithologists, including Max Thompson, were also very surprised to have that many whitewings in the area. Thompson said he’d heard of some whitewings being shot by hunters south of Wichita last season.

Whitewings are normally associated with the deserts of south Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, but they’ve been gradually moving their range northward. They make up a significant portion of the overall dove harvest in southern Oklahoma.

Delbert Johnson, left, holds the shotgun while his grandsons Gage Schneider, right, and Landon Schneider, watch for doves. Hunting success was good, overall, for the first three days of the season.

Saturday morning some hunters at the sunflower field had mourning, white-winged and Eurasion collared doves in their game bags.

Dove hunting success was mixed, but generally pretty good over the opening weekend. Despite Saturday’s success, the hunting was pretty slow at the McPherson Wetlands by Monday morning.