Bird Feature: Mourning Dove

Identifying Mourning Doves:

Plump-bodied and long-tailed birds with short legs, Mourning doves range from 9-13.5 inches from beak to tail with a wingspan of around 17.5 inches. These birds have a small bill, short reddish colored legs, and a head that looks small in comparison to the body. Their coloration is typically light grey and brown and generally muted in color with a dusting of larger black spots on their lower wings.

One of the most abundant and widespread birds of North America, Mourning Doves can often be seen foraging for seeds on the ground and perched on telephone wires. When taking flight, their wings make a distinct, sharp whistling sound. The Mourning Dove gets its name from its distinct soft, drawn-out lamenting or mournful calls.

Mourning Doves are the most frequently hunted game bird in North America, with more than 20 million birds shot annually in the U.S. for sport and meat. The species' ability to sustain its population is due to its prolific breeding; in warm areas, one mated pair may raise up to six broods of young in a single year. The oldest known Mourning Dove was a male, and at least 30 years, 4 months old when he was shot in Florida in 1998. He had been banded in Georgia in 1968.


Mourning Dove on tray feeder

Above: Mourning Dove on Hanging Platform Feeder (Model# WWCF23)

Below left: Mourning Dove on Wild Wings Gazebo Feeder / Below right: Female Northern Cardinal

Mourning Dove and female Northern Cardinal on gazebo feeder

Attracting Mourning Doves to Your Feeder:

Mourning Doves are typically ground foragers that feed almost exclusively on seeds. These birds can be attracted by scattering seeds, particularly millet, on the ground. Due to the birds' large size, they are unable to sit and feed comfortably on most bird feeders. If you want to keep the mess of seeds off the ground, try looking for a hopper feeder designed with an extended perch rail that offers adequate space for the Mourning Dove's plump body. Your best bet, however, is an open platform feeder where the birds have ample space to feed and you will have optimal bird viewing.



The male Mourning Dove gathers nest materials and takes them to the female at the nest location of her selection. Nest materials can include twigs, grass blades, and conifer needles. Mourning Dove nests are flimsy in construction and are most commonly found in trees but can also be found in vines, shrubs, or on buildings. If a suitable elevated nest site cannot be located, Mourning Doves will sometimes nest on the ground. 

Clutch size is almost always 2 eggs that are white in color and roughly 1 inch log and just shy of 1 inch wide. Both male and female take turns incubating the eggs, with the male sitting from morning to afternoon and the female the remainder of the day and through the night. Incubation takes two weeks and the young typically fledge in about 11-15 days.

Have you seen any Mourning Doves on your feeders recently?

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