The Marvelous Mourning Dove

You can see Mourning Doves nearly anywhere in temperate parts of North America except the deep woods. Most migrate along flyways over land. Spring migration is north around April and Fall migration is south about October. Mourning doves almost exclusively eat seeds, which make up more than 99% of their diet. They generally eat enough to fill their crops and then fly away to digest while resting. They often swallow grit, such as fine gravel or sand to assist with digestion. Mourning Doves eat roughly 12 to 20 percent of their body weight per day.

Mourning doves are prolific breeders. In warmer areas these birds may raise up to 6 broods in a season. This fast breeding is essential because mortality is high. The average lifespan is 1.5 years, but if they survive their first year they can live 5 or more years. The oldest known Mourning Dove was a male and at least 30 years old when he was shot in Florida in 1998. He had been banded in Georgia in 1968.

Did you know?

  • Common Name: Mourning Dove
  • Scientific Name: Zenaida macroura
  • The name macroura means makros, “long” and oura, “tail”. The “mourning” part comes from its call
  • They are 12 inches in length and weigh about 5 ounces
  • They are the closest living relative to the passenger pigeon
  • They form strong pair bonds that either reconvene in the same area each breeding season or remain together all winter
  • They are devoted parents. Both feed the hatchlings pigeon milk (a secretion from the lining of the crop that is regurgitated) for the first few days
  • Both sexes incubate and the hatchlings are called squabs
  • Fledging takes place in about 2 weeks but they stay nearby to be fed by their parents for up to 2 weeks after fledging