Living Bird Magazine
Mourning DoveZenaida macroura
- ORDER: Columbiformes
- FAMILY: Columbidae
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.More ID Info
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.
- Zenaida Huilota (Spanish)
- Tourterelle triste (French)
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 out more about what this bird likes to eat and what feeder is best by using the Project FeederWatch Common Feeder Birds bird list.
Consider putting up a nesting cone to attract a breeding pair. Make sure you put it up well before breeding season. Find out more about nest boxes and other ways to provide nesting structures on our Attract Birds pages. You'll find plans for building a nest box of the appropriate size on our All About Birdhouses site.
- 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 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.