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Common Ground Dove Life History


ScrubCommon Ground-Doves live in arid, open woodlands in the early stages of forest development, including pine woods, hammocks, lake shores, forest edges, coastal dunes, mesquite flats, river bottom woodlands, deserts, desert scrublands, oak scrublands, and savannas. They are also found in human landscapes, especially irrigated farm fields and residential neighborhoods.Back to top


SeedsCommon Ground-Doves make their living by gleaning small seeds from wild grasses and weeds. They are also common visitors to bird feeders. They may specialize on certain seeds during the summer, when food is abundant, but eat a variety of seeds during winter. Ground-doves also feed on small berries and insects. In spring and summer they may eat snail shells, possibly to replenish the calcium devoted to eggs and crop-milk during nesting. Back to top


Nest Placement

GroundCommon Ground-Doves typically build nests on the ground in fields, and they may also use above-ground sites including bushes, low horizontal tree branches, stumps, fence posts, vines, cornstalks, palm fronds, mangroves, mesquite thickets, and prickly pear cacti.

Nest Description

Ground-doves invest minimal time in building their nests, but both sexes share the labor. When nesting on the ground they dig a slight depression in the earth and line it with a few grasses, weeds, rootlets, palm fibers, or pine needles. For above-ground nests they build flimsy structures of twigs or pine needles lined with rootlets and grasses. Each nest is up to 3 inches across but less than half an inch deep, meaning that the eggs are usually visible above the rim of the nest.

Nesting Facts

Clutch Size:1-3 eggs
Number of Broods:1-4 broods
Egg Length:0.8-0.9 in (2-2.4 cm)
Egg Width:0.6-0.7 in (1.5-1.7 cm)
Incubation Period:12-14 days
Nestling Period:11-14 days
Egg Description:Uniformly white and smooth.
Condition at Hatching:Eyes closed and body covered with sparse gray down.
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Ground ForagerDuring the day Common Ground-Doves spend time on the ground searching for seeds and roosting. They may also roost in trees or shrubs at any hour of the day or night. They nod their heads as they walk, often holding their tails slightly elevated, and they usually make short, low, and direct flights. When startled they can quickly burst into nearby cover, but they are not a very anxious bird—allowing humans to get very close without appearing bothered. Common Ground-Doves gather in flocks of their own kind and with other dove species, particularly Inca Doves where their ranges overlap in Texas and the Southwest. When males compete for food or mates they may make sharp cooing calls and raise one or both wings, revealing chestnut wing-patches. A courting male follows the female and keeps doing this, sometimes flying after her to stay near. Eventually the female accepts regurgitated food from the male, and the pair bond is cemented; pairs stay together for several years. Before mating, the male bows to the female with puffed feathers, flicking his wings and giving a guttural call. Back to top


Low ConcernCommon Ground-Doves are widespread and common throughout their range, and their numbers were stable between 1966 and 2014, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates the global breeding population at 13 million, with 18% living in the U.S., and 21% in Mexico. They rate a 9 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score and are not on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List. More than 85% of scrub habitats have been lost to agriculture and residential development in the last half-century, with fire suppression degrading much of the remaining habitat. Since these doves lay their eggs on the ground, people can unwittingly disturb their nests during daily activities. Common Ground-Doves are often killed by colliding with vehicles and human structures. Other major causes of death include predation (often by domestic cats) and hunting.Back to top


Bowman, Reed. (2002). Common Ground-Dove (Columbina passerina), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. (2020). Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2020. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2020.

North American Bird Conservation Initiative. (2014). The State of the Birds 2014 Report. US Department of Interior, Washington, DC, USA.

Partners in Flight (2017). Avian Conservation Assessment Database. 2017.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, USA.

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