Photo: Lew_Johnson/Great Backyard Bird Count Participant

Mourning Dove

Zenaida macroura

Conservation status Does very well in man-altered habitats. Numbers probably have increased greatly with increasing settlement of North America.
Family Pigeons and Doves
Habitat Farms, towns, open woods, roadsides, grasslands. Found in almost any kind of open or semi-open habitat in temperate parts of North America, including forest clearings, farmland, suburbs, prairies, deserts. May be most common in edge habitats having both trees and open ground, but also found in some treeless areas. Avoids unbroken forest.
The mournful cooing of the Mourning Dove is one of our most familiar bird sounds. From southern Canada to central Mexico, this is one of our most common birds, often abundant in open country and along roadsides. European settlement of the continent, with its opening of the forest, probably helped this species to increase. It also helps itself, by breeding prolifically: in warm climates, Mourning Doves may raise up to six broods per year, more than any other native bird.
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Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly on ground; sometimes will perch on plants to take seeds. Will come to bird feeders, often eating on the ground under elevated feeders. Eats quickly to fill crop with seeds, then digests them while resting. Regularly swallows grit (small gravel) to aid in digestion of hard seeds.


Eggs

2. White. Incubation is by both parents, about 14 days. Young: Both parents feed young "pigeon milk." Young leave nest at about 15 days, usually wait nearby to be fed for next 1-2 weeks. One pair may raise as many as 5-6 broods per year in southern areas.


Young

Both parents feed young "pigeon milk." Young leave nest at about 15 days, usually wait nearby to be fed for next 1-2 weeks. One pair may raise as many as 5-6 broods per year in southern areas.

Diet

Seeds. Feeds almost entirely on seeds (99% of diet). Favors seeds of cultivated grains, also those of grasses, ragweeds, many other plants. Occasionally eats snails, very rarely any insects.


Nesting

In courtship, male flies up with noisy wingbeats and then goes into long circular glide, wings fully spread and slightly bowed down. On ground, male approaches female stiffly, his chest puffed out, bowing and giving emphatic cooing song. Members of mated pairs may preen each other's feathers. Nest: Male leads female to potential nest sites; female chooses one. Site is usually in tree or shrub, sometimes on ground, sometimes on building ledge or other structure; usually lower than 40', rarely up to 100' or more above ground. Nest is very flimsy platform of twigs; male brings material, female builds.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Migration

Some remain through winter over most of breeding range, but many move south from northern areas in fall. Migration is mostly by day, in flocks.

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Migration

Some remain through winter over most of breeding range, but many move south from northern areas in fall. Migration is mostly by day, in flocks.

Songs and Calls
Low mournful (hence its name) coo-ah, coo, coo, coo.