The mourning dove (Zenaida macroura) is a medium-sized bird throughout North America. They are well-known for their distinctive cooing call, often heard in the mornings and evenings.
They have a plump body with a long, pointed tail. They are often found in open fields, parks, and backyards and feed on various seeds and grains.
This breed guide will provide information on the mourning dove’s physical characteristics, diet, habitat, behavior, and reproduction.
Physical Characteristics of Mourning Doves
Mourning doves (Zenaida macroura) are medium-sized birds native to North America. They have several distinct physical characteristics that help identify them:
Size and Shape
Mourning doves are a medium-sized bird, measuring about 10. 5 inches in length and weighing around 4 oz. The birds have a plump, rounded body shape that adds to their cuddly appearance.
Their long, pointed tails and small heads create a streamlined silhouette, while their small beaks are perfectly suited for nibbling on seeds and grains.
Plumage and Feather
They are primarily light brown or beige. However, their plumage isn’t entirely uniform. The birds have a distinctive black mark on their necks that forms a half-collar, while their wings are speckled with black dots.
Interestingly, when viewed in a particular light, these birds’ feathers can give off a metallic iridescence that adds to their beauty and allure.
Unique Physical Features
One of mourning doves’ most unique physical features is their ability to drink water without lifting their heads. Unlike other birds, which must bend their necks to take a drink, mourning doves can suck up water and swallow it without ever tilting their heads back.
Perhaps even more impressive is their ability to maintain flight for long periods, with some birds spending up to 12 hours in the air without touching down. These features of mourning doves make them stand out as some of the most remarkable birds in North America.
The Fascinating Mourning Dove Behavior
Mourning doves are gentle creatures identifiable by their soft cooing calls. Despite their peaceful demeanor, mourning doves exhibit many fascinating behaviors.
Feeding Habits and Diet
Mourning doves are primarily seed eaters but consume various other foods, including insects and fruit.
- Sunflower seeds
Mourning doves typically feed on the ground and often visit bird feeders. Ground feeders often travel in flocks but may feed individually or in pairs.
Breeding and Mating Habits
Mourning doves typically breed during the spring and summer, but they can breed year-round in mild climates. The male mourning dove initiates courtship by cooing at the female, bobbing his head, and spreading his tail feathers. If the female is interested, she will join in the cooing and may allow the male to feed her.
Males will also bring twigs and sticks to the female as part of their courtship display.
Nesting and Reproductive Cycle
Mourning doves build simple nests on the branches or stems of small trees and shrubs or the ground. The male brings materials to the female, who constructs the nest. The female lays two eggs, and the male and female take turns incubating the eggs.
The eggs typically hatch after approximately two weeks, and the young doves leave the nest after another two weeks.
Social and Communication Habits
Mourning doves are relatively social birds and may roost together in large flocks. They communicate with each other through a variety of sounds, including cooing, clucking, and fluttering sounds. They also communicate through body language, such as bobbing heads and flashing tails.
Caring Guide for Mourning Doves
Mourning doves are fascinating birds with a unique and gentle personality. If you have these beautiful creatures as pets or want to attract them to your backyard, you must understand how to care for them properly.
Captivity Vs. Wild
- Captive and wild doves have different diets and lifestyles.
- Wild doves can find their own food, but captive doves rely on their owners for food, water, and housing.
Diet and Feeding
- Seeds, grains, and insects should make up most of a mourning dove’s diet.
- Feed captive doves daily, ensuring they have a consistent, clean water supply.
- Doves need a spacious cage with horizontal bars, at least 18 by 18 24 inches.
- Provide a perch, nesting box, and substrate material for the bottom of the cage.
Maintenance and Health
- Provide weekly baths and proper grooming to ensure your dove’s health and happiness.
- Regular veterinarian check-ups are essential for monitoring your dove’s health.
Mourning Dove Preservation and Conservation
- Dogs are protected in some states, so it’s important to research local laws and regulations.
- Habitat destruction and hunting threaten wild mourning doves, so supporting conservation efforts is essential.
Enjoying Mourning Doves in Your Backyard
- Create a dove-friendly environment by providing food, water, and shelter.
- Adequately set up bird feeders and birdbaths to attract mourning doves to your backyard.
Mourning Dove Breeding Guide
Mourning doves, scientifically known as Zenaida macroura, are prolific breeders found throughout North and Central America. Breeding typically occurs during the spring and summer months when food is abundant. Here is a general guide to mourning dove breeding:
Mourning doves are highly adaptable and can nest in a variety of habitats, including open woodlands, farmlands, urban areas, and gardens. They prefer areas with access to water sources and abundant food supply.
Courtship and Mating
- Courtship Displays: Male mourning doves perform courtship displays to attract females. These displays involve puffing out the chest, cooing, and bowing. Males also engage in a behavior called “bow-cooing,” where they bow and make a soft cooing sound to impress females.
- Pair Bonding: Once a pair is formed, they become monogamous for the breeding season. Mourning doves mate for life, although they may find new partners if one dies.
- Nest Building: The male gathers twigs and presents them to the female, who constructs a flimsy nest of twigs and grasses. Nests are often built in trees, shrubs, or ground. They may also use ledges, eaves, or other man-made structures.
- Egg Laying: The female typically lays two white, elongated eggs. The eggs are incubated for about 14 days by both parents.
- Incubation: The male and female take turns incubating the eggs, switching shifts throughout the day. The male incubates during the day, and the female takes over at night.
- Feeding: Both parents are responsible for feeding the chicks a substance called “pigeon milk,” a highly nutritious secretion produced in their crop. As the chicks grow, they are gradually introduced to seeds.
Fledgling and Independence
- Fledging: The chicks fledge (leave the nest) about 14 to 16 days after hatching. However, they are not fully independent and still rely on their parents for food and protection.
- Parental Care After Fledging: The parents continue to care for the fledglings, teaching them to find food and avoid predators. The fledglings become fully independent after a couple of weeks.
Mourning doves are known for their high reproductive potential. If conditions are favorable and food is abundant, they can raise multiple broods in a single breeding season.
The mourning dove is a popular and unique bird species, both as a pet and as a wild bird. As this breed guide shows, there is much to learn about these gentle birds, including their natural behaviors, feeding habits, and breeding patterns.
Mourning doves are beloved by many and a fascinating subject of study for bird enthusiasts. Before embarking on pet ownership or bird watching, it’s essential to understand this breed’s unique characteristics and needs.
With proper care and attention, we can help ensure the survival and well-being of one of nature’s most beloved creatures, the mourning dove.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where Do Mourning Doves Typically Nest?
Mourning doves typically build nests in trees and shrubs, although they have been known to nest on buildings or the ground if necessary. They tend to choose locations with cover from surrounding vegetation and access to food and water sources.
What Is The Mating And Breeding Season for Mourning Doves?
Mourning doves usually mate and breed from April to September. However, mating and breeding seasons may vary depending on the location, climate, and availability of food and water. These birds can produce up to six broods per year, each with two eggs.
How Can I Attract Mourning Doves to My Yard For Nesting?
To attract mourning doves to your yard for nesting, provide an open area with scattered shrubs and small trees for perching and cover. You can also offer nesting materials such as small twigs and grass.
Install a bird feeder with sunflower seeds and a birdbath for drinking and bathing. Avoid using pesticides and provide a peaceful environment.
How Many Eggs Do Mourning Doves Lay, And How Long Does It Take for Them to Hatch?
Mourning doves lay two eggs per clutch and typically lay four to five clutches per year. The eggs take about two weeks to hatch, with the chicks leaving the nest within two weeks of hatching.