Mourning Dove

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A graceful, slender-tailed, small-headed dove that's common across the continent. Mourning Doves perch on telephone wires and forage for seeds on the ground; their flight is fast and bullet straight. Their soft, drawn-out calls sound like laments. When taking off, their wings make a sharp whistling or whinnying.

Size & Shape

Plump-bodied and long-tailed, with short legs, small bill, and a head that looks particularly small in comparison to the body. The long, pointed tail is unique among North American doves.

Color Pattern

Mourning Doves often match their open-country surroundings. They're delicate brown to buffy-tan overall, with black spots on the wings and black-bordered white tips to the tail feathers.

Behavior

Mourning Doves fly fast on powerful wingbeats, sometimes making sudden ascents, descents, and dodges, their pointed tails stretching behind them.
Mourning Doves feed on the ground and in the open. They peck or push aside ground litter, but don't scratch at the ground. Males have favorite "cooing perches" they defend from other males. Members of a pair preen each other with gentle nibbles around the neck as a pair-bonding ritual. Eventually, the pair will progress to grasping beaks and bobbing their heads up and down in unison.

Habitat

You can see Mourning Doves nearly anywhere except the deep woods. Look for them in fields or patches of bare ground, or on overhead perches like telephone wires.
Primarily a bird of open country, scattered trees, and woodland edges, but large numbers roost in woodlots during winter. Feeds on ground in grasslands, agricultural fields, backyards, and roadsides.

Food

Seeds make up 99 percent of a Mourning Dove's diet, including cultivated grains and even peanuts, as well as wild grasses, weeds, herbs, and occasionally berries. They sometimes eat snails. Mourning Doves eat roughly 12 to 20 percent of their body weight per day, or 71 calories on average.

Cool Facts

During the breeding season, you might see three Mourning Doves flying in tight formation, one after another. This is a form of social display. Typically the bird in the lead is the male of a mated pair. The second bird is an unmated male chasing his rival from the area where he hopes to nest. The third is the female of the mated pair, which seems to go along for the ride.
Mourning Doves tend to feed busily on the ground, swallowing seeds and storing them in an enlargement of the esophagus called the crop. Once they've filled it (the record is 17,200 bluegrass seeds in a single crop!), they can fly to a safe perch to digest the meal.
Mourning Doves eat roughly 12 to 20 percent of their body weight per day, or 71 calories on average.
Perhaps one reason why Mourning Doves survive in the desert: they can drink brackish spring water (up to almost half the salinity of sea water) without becoming dehydrated the way humans would.
The Mourning Dove is the most widespread and abundant game bird in North America. Every year hunters harvest more than 20 million, but the Mourning Dove remains one of our most abundant birds with a U.S. population estimated at 350 million.
The oldest known Mourning Dove was 31 years 4 months old.

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