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Mourning DoveMourning DoveDove flying

Mourning Doves are one of the most wide spread birds in North America. This makes them not only a popular songbird but a game bird as well.

Identification and Pictures

Mourning Doves (Zenaida Macrouraare) are small slim doves about 12 inches.  They are fawn-colored with black spots on their backs and pinkish-red feet and legs.  Their distinctive long pointed tail with large white outer tail feathers stands out.  Males have a slightly bluish crown and nape, with a bit of pink on the breast.

Turtle doves are sometimes mistaken for Morning doves. 

Photo by Keith Lee.  The camera I use is the Canon EOS 40D.

When the birds fly they flap their wings continually creating a whistle as the air passes through the wing feathers.  Just like other doves and pigeons this one jerks its head with each step when it walks.
Get a Rock Dove puzzle.

Calls and Songs
Sometimes mistaken for an owl, the male's courtship and territorial call is a series of cooing notes.  It sounds like coah cooo cooo coo.  Both adults give a shorter call like oowa when near the nest.  There is also a whistling twitter when they take off.

Hear Mourning Dove Sound

Range and Habitat

In late fall mourning doves gather in large flocks across nearly all of the United States, and southern Canada.  Many, but not all northern mourning doves migrate south in winter.  They can be found in grasslands, farmlands, open woods, and roadsides.  They are equally at home in backyards with evergreens, fruit trees, and suburban gardens.  In fact they are at home in virtually any habitat.  When you hear talk of a bird for all seasons this is it.

Breeding and Nesting

Mourning Dove

Mourning doves breed in all 50 states, southern Canada, Alaska, Mexico, and into Panama.  Breeding starts in March and April.

photo by Lee Karney U.S. Wildlife

Courtship starts with the male cooing call while puffing out his throat, and bobbing his tail. The Fish and Wild Life Service actually counts them by listening for this call. Another part of the courtship is the flight of the male. He will fly to around 100 feet then glide back down to the female in large sweeping circles. He will also strut and bow repeatedly in front of the female.  After mating the male vigorously defends the nesting area.  What is unusual is the Morning doves will do most of their feeding outside the nesting area.

The nesting site is often on a tree branch 10 to 25 feet up, and is chosen by the male.  He then gathers sticks, and bring them to the female, landing on her while she sits on the partly built nest.  Although they seem to take great care, their nest is one of the flimsiest of all bird nests.  The eggs can even be seen through the twigs.  Often they will just use old nests from other birds such as robins.

Usually there are two white eggs with both birds taking turns on the nest.  Many nests are lost to bad weather.  In addition doves have many predators such as squirrels, snakes, and other birds.  Both adults will feed the young, and they can leave the nest in 10 to 14 days.

They will have as many as six broods of two chicks each during a season.  This fast reproduction allows them to thrive and spread even with high predation.  Young birds leave the nest in around two weeks and the parents continue to feed them outside the nest for another two weeks.

Food and Feeding

Mourning doves natural foods are a wide variety of wild seeds, grains, and insects.  They often feed on grain in open fields, and croplands.  They will be seen at feeders in larger numbers when the ground is covered in deep snow.

Just as with other songbirds, food, water, and cover will attract them to your backyard.  Stock your feeders with cracked corn, millet, and a variety of other seeds to attract Mourning doves.  Doves are ground feeders, so tray feeders are best.  While many songbirds will scatter when jays or crows arrive, Mourning doves will just ignore them and keep eating.

Birdbaths will attract them, but running or dripping water will draw more birds. You are also likely to get more birds if you have trees, and shrubs for cover. I keep a water dish on my deck rail, here is a video of turtle doves at the dish.  


For other bird videos please visit our Youtube channel and subscribe or like our videos.

Most videos on my site were taken with the Canon HG10.

For more on food and feeding click here.
For more on feeders click here.

Dove posters Dove posters

To learn about other favorite birds click here.

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