Abundant and familiar, the mourning dove is one of the most common backyard birds in the United States. While these birds are a protected species, many states allow regulated harvesting of mourning doves as game birds.
Mourning Dove, Dove, MoDo
- Bill: Black, upper mandible curves down at tip
- Size: 12 inches long with 18-inch wingspan, plump body, long tail
- Colors: Black, beige, gray, pink, white, iridescent
- Markings: Genders are similar with overall beige plumage slightly darker on the wings and tail. A gray or faint pink wash can be seen on the head, neck and chest, and mature birds have a black cheek spot that may be difficult to see. Black spots are prominent on the wings. The tail is long and pointed, edged with white on the outer feathers. Males have an iridescent neck patch and both genders have a pale blue gray eye ring. Legs and feet are red.
Seeds, insects, snails
Habitat and Migration:
Mourning doves are common birds in the United States and southern Canada throughout the year, though very northern populations may migrate as far as the Yucatan Peninsula or Central America. If food is abundant, these birds may not migrate. Preferred habitats are open forest or farmland, but mourning doves are easily adaptable to suburban areas and parks.
The mourning doves gets its name from its low, mournful “ooo-Ahhh crooo-ooo-ooo” call, though other calls include a low, rapid coo when in distress and a rapid, high wing whistle when the birds take flight.
Male mourning doves can be very aggressive when defending their territory and will puff up their necks and hop in pursuit of other birds on the ground. Around humans, these birds are often wary and may spook easily, which can lead to inadvertent window collisions. They frequently congregate in medium to large flocks, particularly after the nesting season when family groups may combine.
Mourning doves are monogamous birds that may mate for life. One pair will produce from 2-6 broods per year depending on the climate and available food sources, though each brood only contains two eggs. Both parents incubate the eggs for 14 days, and both feed the altricial young regurgitated crop milk and seeds for 12-14 days until they are ready to leave the nest.
Attracting Mourning Doves:
These pigeon-like birds readily visit backyard feeders where seeds such as millet, cracked corn and milo are available. They prefer platform or ground feeders, as well as ground birdbaths. Many birders may consider mourning doves to be nuisance birds because of their voracious appetites and the larger flocks they form in late summer and fall. To discourage these birds, avoid platform and ground feeders and offer foods such as nyger seed and suet instead.
- Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)
- Zenaida Dove (Zenaida aurita)
- White-Winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica)
- Common Ground-Dove (Columbina passerine)
Photo – Mourning Dove © Trisha Shears