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    Mourning Dove Life History


    Habitat Open WoodlandsPrimarily a bird of open country, scattered trees, and woodland edges, but large numbers roost in woodlots during winter. Feeds on ground in grasslands, agricultural fields, backyards, and roadsides.Back to top


    Food SeedsSeeds make up 99 percent of a Mourning Dove’s diet, including cultivated grains and even peanuts, as well as wild grasses, weeds, herbs, and occasionally berries. They sometimes eat snails. Mourning Doves eat roughly 12 to 20 percent of their body weight per day, or 71 calories on average.Back to top


    Nest Placement

    Nest TreeTypically nests amid dense foliage on the branch of an evergreen, orchard tree, mesquite, cottonwood, or vine. Also quite commonly nests on the ground, particularly in the West. Unbothered by nesting around humans, Mourning Doves may even nest on gutters, eaves, or abandoned equipment.

    Nest Description

    A flimsy assembly of pine needles, twigs, and grass stems, unlined and with little insulation for the young. Over 2 to 4 days, the male carries twigs to the female, passing them to her while standing on her back; the female weaves them into a nest about 8 inches across. Mourning Doves sometimes reuse their own or other species’ nests.

    Nesting Facts
    Clutch Size:2 eggs
    Number of Broods:1-6 broods
    Egg Length:1.0-1.2 in (2.6-3 cm)
    Egg Width:0.8-0.9 in (2.1-2.3 cm)
    Incubation Period:14 days
    Nestling Period:12-15 days
    Egg Description:Unmarked, white.
    Condition at Hatching:Helpless, eyes closed, sparsely covered in cream-colored down, unable to hold up head, dependent on adults for warmth.
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    Behavior Ground ForagerMourning Doves feed on the ground and in the open. They peck or push aside ground litter, but don’t scratch at the ground. Males have favorite “cooing perches” they defend from other males. Members of a pair preen each other with gentle nibbles around the neck as a pair-bonding ritual. Eventually, the pair will progress to grasping beaks and bobbing their heads up and down in unison.Back to top


    Conservation Low ConcernMourning Doves are common across the continent and generally have prospered as people settled the landscape, however populations declined by about 15% between 1966 and 2015, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates the global breeding population at 120 million with 81% spending some part of the year in the U.S., 19% in Mexico, and 5% in Canada. The species rates a 5 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. Mourning Dove is not on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List. These birds are the continent's most popular game bird: hunters may shoot more than 20 million Mourning Doves each year. Because of the birds' popularity, game managers monitor their numbers to set hunting limits. Although Mourning Doves seem to do well in the face of hunting pressure, they also face the less visible problem of lead poisoning. Mourning Doves forage on the ground, and in heavily hunted areas they may wind up eating fallen lead shot (records show some doves have eaten up to 43 pellets). Studies have found this problem is worst around fields specifically planted to attract the doves, and that about 1 in 20 doves wind up eating lead.Back to top

    Backyard Tips

    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.

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    Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2015.2. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2015.

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

    Otis, David L., John H. Schulz, David Miller, R. E. Mirarchi and T. S. Baskett. 2008. Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

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

    Raftovich, R. V., S. C. Chandler and K. A. Wilkins. 2015. Migratory bird hunting activity and harvest during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 hunting seasons. Laurel, Maryland, USA: US Fish and Wildlife Service.

    Sauer, J. R., J. E. Hines, J. E. Fallon, K. L. Pardieck, Jr. Ziolkowski, D. J. and W. A. Link. The North American Breeding Bird Survey, results and analysis 1966-2013 (Version 1.30.15). USGS Patuxtent Wildlife Research Center 2014b. Available from

    Sibley, David Allen. 2014. The Sibley guide to birds, second edition. Alfred A Knopf, New York.

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