Mourning Dove Facts | Anatomy, Diet, Habitat, Behavior

The mourning dove (Zenaida macroura) belongs to the family Columbidae and it is the most common North American bird. The dove is capable to achieve high speeds during flight. It is also known as turtle dove, American mourning dove, and Carolina pigeon. The total population of mourning dove is estimated at 475 million worldwide.

Mourning Dove Facts


  • The mourning dove is a medium-size bird and it is almost the length of a pigeon. Adult doves grow about 31 cm (12 in) in length while it weighs 112–170 g (4.0–6.0 oz).
  • The wingspan measures at 17.7 in (45 cm).
  • The dove’s body is slenderer than the Rock Pigeon.
  • They have broad wings which produce whistling sounds during flight. The head is round and the tail is long.
  • Mourning doves have slender body and short reddish legs.
  • They have got short beak and it is brown hue in color.
  • It has light grey to pinkish plumage and the wings are distinguished by black spotting.
  • Adult males are mainly recognized by pinkish patches around the neck.
  • Males are females are nearly the same size.
  • The Panama population seems to possess longer beak which is grey in color.
mourning dove facts
Mourning Doves


  • The mourning dove is thought to occur in a wide variety of habitats such as semi-open areas, prairie lands, lightly wooded areas, urban regions, farms, and grasslands.
  • Doves usually avoid dense forests and swamps. Over the years the bird has adapted to surviving in areas altered by humans.
  • They don’t hesitate to build nests near farmsteads and cities.


  • Mourning doves do migrate but they travel on land and rarely over the Gulf of Mexico. During spring they fly towards north in the months ranging from March to May.
  • Similarly from September to November (fall) they fly towards south. The migration takes place in groups which are led by young birds followed by the adult females and then adult males.
  • They are thought to migrate in daylight hours but at low altitudes.
  • The Canadian population remains in Canada all year round even during winter. It explains that some doves are non-migratory.
  • Adult males have unique calls such as cooOOoo-woo-woo-woooo which they produce to attract females. Once can get confused of its call because it resembles more like an owl’s calls.
  • They often take sunbathe and enjoy rain water. In order to get rid of any insects, doves also put dusts on their body.
  • Mourning doves roost in small groups.
  • It can reach a speed of about 88 km/h (55 mph).

Feeding Ecology & Diet

  • Mourning doves are seed-eating birds as seeds make up 99% of the bird’s diet. They supplement their diet with some insects and snails.
  • Doves may also consume fine sand because it helps them to digest food.
  • They can easily walk on land and thus doves find it easy to forage on land. Prominent among the seeds is sunflower seeds, millet, canola, safflower, and corn seeds.
  • They will not dig for seeds but eat those that are present on the surface.
  • Mourning doves seem to prefer few plants over the others such as pine nuts, canary grass, wheat seeds, pokeberry, sweetgum, sesame seeds. When these seeds are not available they may rely on goosegrass, smartweed, rye, and buckwheat.
  • It can suck water from below as it doesn’t need to lift its head for drinking. Doves usually drink at sunrise and sunset.
mourning dove facts
Mourning Dove eating seed

Reproductive Biology

  • During the breeding season adult males become noisy as they circle around the female in courtship behavior. Soon after landing males bob its head with loud calls.
  • The pair is often seen preening each other’s feathers.
  • Male doves guide the female to a nesting site. It’s up to the female whether to choose it or reject it. If she chooses the site then she starts building a nest.
  • Male is supposed to bring her all materials necessary for building nest. They build nests of twigs, grass blades, and conifer needles.
  • Sometimes they also use nests of other tree-living animals including squirrels.
  • They choose coniferous and deciduous forests, shrubs, or vines to build nests.
  • If they don’t find the required tree doves may nest on the ground.
  • A female lays 3 – 4 white eggs.
  • Dove’s eggs are 6.6 ml (0.23 imp fl oz; 0.22 US fl oz), 2.57–2.96 cm (1.01–1.17 in) long with the width measuring at 2.06–2.30 cm (0.81–0.91 in). Eggs weigh up to 6–7 g (0.21–0.25 oz).
  • Both parents incubate the eggs while females do most of the incubating.
  • They never leave the eggs unattended. That is to say that either of the parents must be there to guard eggs.
  • The incubation period lasts about 14 days.
  • Young birds leave the nest in about 11 – 15 days. However they may remain with adult male for another 14 days after fledging.
  • The parents are likely to raise 2 broods each season.
  • The maximum lifespan of mourning doves is 31 years.
  • Predators of mourning doves include falcons, hawks, corvids, housecats, rat snakes, grackles, and other birds of prey.

Conservation Status

Least Concern

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