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Mourning Dove

Zenaida macroura ORDER: COLUMBIFORMES FAMILY: COLUMBIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Mourning Dove Photo

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. Mourning Doves are the most frequently hunted species in North America.

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Songs

The song (or “perch-coo”) is given mainly by unmated males from a conspicuous perch. It’s a soft coo-oo followed by two or three louder coos.

Calls

You can often hear paired males give the three-parted “nest call” while nest-building: a coo-OO-oo, highest in the middle. Females sometimes call ohr ohr while sitting on the nest.

Other

  • Wing whistle from flushed bird
      No sound? Click here
  • Wing whistle as bird flushes
      No sound? Click here
  • Courtesy of Macaulay Library
    © Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

When taking off and landing, Mourning Doves’ wings make a loud whistling that may help startle predators or warn flock mates. They also can clap their wings together during takeoff much the way Rock Pigeons do.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Backyard Tips

Consider putting up a nest box to attract a breeding pair. Make sure you put it up well before breeding season. Attach a guard to keep predators from raiding eggs and young. Find out more about nest boxes on our Attract Birds pages. You'll find plans for building a nest box of the appropriate size on our All About Birdhouses site.

Scatter seeds, particularly millet, on the ground or on platform feeders. Plant dense shrubs or evergreen trees in your yard to provide nesting sites. Keep your cats inside - birds that spend much of their time on the ground are particularly vulnerable to prowling cats.

Find This Bird

Look for Mourning Doves on telephone wires and similar perches throughout your neighborhood, or keep an eye on patches of bare ground, where the birds gather to stock up on seeds and grit.

Get Involved

Mourning Doves add grace and movement to many urban and suburban settings. Keep track of your sightings – even in the heart of the city – as part of our Celebrate Urban Birds! program.

Download instructions for setting up a basket to attract nesting Mourning Doves (PDF)

If you know of a Mourning Dove nest, visit NestWatch to learn how to monitor it and report your observations

Top 10 Ways to Help Birds in Cities

Visit our section on how to set up a bird feeder. Then watch the birds and report your counts to Project FeederWatch.

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A bird's habitat, like the Mourning Dove's preference for open country, can help you identify it. Watch our Inside Birding video series to learn how—right from your computer.

Q & A: Why Do Doves’ Wings Make a Whirring Sound When They Fly?

Mourning Dove from Bent's Life Histories of North American Birds (1932)

Doves and pigeons poster for just $5.00, illustrated by Julie Zickefoose