Mourning Dove

(Zenaida macroura)

The coos of the Mourning Dove may sound sad, but bird watchers know it signals the beginning of this birds mating habits and nesting, claiming territory, and raising young.


Slimmer than pigeons and about 12 inches in length, this dove has a soft gray-brown body and a gray patch on the head. Black dots on their wings are like human finger prints, no two birds are alike.

There is a single black spot behind and below the eyes. A long tapered white-edged tail that is conspicuous in flight.

Mourning dove

Feeding Habits:

A tray or platform feeder will aid in attracting them to your yard for a close up look. Cracked corn works well and is an inexpensive bird seed. Where the winters are cold and snowy, you can expect your dove flock to grow as the season wears on.

They are common under bird feeders where they pick up the mess other birds leave behind.

In the wild, Mourning doves feed primarily on waste grain. These include corn, wheat, grass, and weed seeds.

You can attract these birds to your feeder by supplying white and red proso millet, oil-type sunflower seeds, and cracked corn. They prefer open land with scattered trees and shrubs. Except for wetland and dense forest, mourning doves can be found most anywhere.

They are one of the most widespread and adaptable North American birds.

The best garden habitat includes open lawn, herbaceous borders, and flower beds, with scattered patches of trees and shrubs.

Doves enjoy a good bath and drink and are on of the few birds that can drink without picking its head up to swallow. Include a source of water close to the ground in addition to providing bird seed and you should be able to attract these birds all year.

mourning dove nesting

Nesting Habits of Mourning Doves:

Another bird that mates for life or until death of one.

DNA testing proves these birds are faithful.

A loosely built nest of twigs, grass, weeds and pine needles, make up the nesting materials Doves use.

In fact, this loose pile of twigs is so lightly put together that often you can see through it from the bottom.

If the Mourning dove is startled and flies off the nest too quickly, the eggs could fall from the nest. Bird watchers would be wise to wait until the eggs have hatched before approaching any nest.

Nest abandonment is very common with these birds. If they feel any threat from predators whether human or animal, they may go elsewhere to nest abandoning both eggs and nestlings. Bird watchers need to exercise caution.

The nest can be found 5-25 feet above the ground, often in the crotch of a shrub or tree. Laying 2 white eggs that are incubated for 14-15 days. The young will leave the nest in 12-14 days.

Mourning Doves have been known to reuse the same nest for five sets of eggs in a single season. Usually 2 - 3 broods raised each season.

You can try attracting doves to nest near you by placing a Nesting Shelf attached to a tree or your house.

Both parents of doves, along with Pigeons, produce a food called pigeon milk (not really milk) by glands in the crop of the adult bird. The parent opens its mouth wide, permitting the nestling to stick its head inside to feed on the nutritious food.

Unlike most birds, Doves incubate their eggs continually. Since the male and female look alike, it appears the same bird is incubating the eggs the whole time.

Actually, the male does a daytime shift and the female does the night shift. If you are not around during the change, it appears the same bird has been on the nest the whole time.

Not to worry, the switch was made while you were not looking.


The average lifespan of first year Mourning doves is 1 - 1.5 years. First year doves have a mortality rate of 60 - 75 percent and adults have a mortality rate of 50 - 60 percent. For any songbird the first year of survival is the most difficult. Doves that survive their first year can live on average 4 - 5 years.

Predators include: birds, snakes, squirrels, cats and hunters.

These birds are perfect prey for cats because they feed mostly on the ground.

Sometimes the surviving bird will attempt to incubate the eggs, or continue feeding the nestlings.

This is a difficult task for a single bird and often unsuccessful.

In due course, the surviving mate will find a new mate. Since they nest several times a season it's possible they will raise a successful brood in the same season. While it's sad to lose these birds in your yard, be comforted knowing they will mate again.

Build a bird Garden for Mourning Doves and all Your Birds.

Trees for Nesting and Protection

Shrubs for Your Wildlife Gardens

Native Flowers Offer Food

Offer Water to Attract Loads of Birds

What Feed to Offer Your Birds

Choice of Bird Feeders

Return to Common Birds

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