Conservation status In recent decades has declined seriously in many areas, especially in the southeast. Reasons are not well understood.
Family Pigeons and Doves
Habitat Farms, orchards, wood edges, roadsides. Mostly in semi-open habitats with low brush and grass. In the southeast, found mostly in brushy fields, understory of open pine woods, forest edges. In southwest, occurs in similar habitats including orchards, ranch yards, mesquite thickets along streams.
Quiet and unobtrusive, the little ground dove walks on the ground in open bushy places in the southern states. If it is startled, it flies up into the brush with a fluttering rattle, showing a short black tail and a flash of rusty-red in the wings. The male may repeat his short cooing song incessantly, even in the heat of the day.

Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly on the ground, walking about and picking up seeds. Often forages in pairs, sometimes in small flocks; may associate with Inca Doves where their habitats overlap. Will come to bird feeders for seeds, especially in the southeast.


2, sometimes 3. White. Incubation is by both parents, 12-14 days. Young: Both parents presumed to feed young "pigeon milk." Young leave nest after 11-12 days or more. 2-3 broods per year, sometimes 4.


Both parents presumed to feed young "pigeon milk." Young leave nest after 11-12 days or more. 2-3 broods per year, sometimes 4.


Mostly seeds. Feeds on a wide variety of seeds, especially those of grasses and weeds, also waste grain in farm fields. Also eats small fruits and berries, and reportedly eats some insects.


In courtship, male struts with stiff steps, chest puffed out and head bowed, while cooing. Several males may compete for attentions of one female. Members of mated pairs often perch very close together, and may preen each other's feathers. Nest site varies, may be on ground, or in shrubs or low trees up to 25' above ground; usually 3-12' up on horizontal fork of branch. Nest (probably built by both sexes) is flat, flimsy platform of sticks.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

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Permanent resident in most areas, but in parts of the southwest it is much more common in summer, suggesting a regular migration to the south.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon

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Songs and Calls

Soft cooing notes, coo-oo, coo-oo, coo-oo, each with rising inflection.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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