Mourning Dove Facts: Animals of North America

The coloration of the adult male mourning dove contrasts from the female by the pink-purplish hue on their neck region.
The coloration of the adult male mourning dove contrasts from the female by the pink-purplish hue on their neck region.

The mourning dove is a bird belonging to the dove family. It is also commonly referred to as American mourning dove or rain dove. It is found in North America. They are more common in the United States and Canada. The current population of the mourning dove is estimated to be over 475 million. This population is kept constant despite hunters targeting the birds. The reproduction span is very short, a reason why the population is not greatly affected by hunting.

Physical Description

The mourning dove is a medium-sized slender bird. It is approximately 31 cm long. Its weight normally ranges from 112-170 grams, but with an average of 128 grams. The head of the mourning dove is usually rounded. They have perching feet, with three toes facing forward and one backward. The legs are usually short and reddish in color. The beak is short and dull colored. The eyes are dark with a light skin around them. The wings have black spots and the outer tail feathers are white whereas the inner ones are black. The adult males contrast from the females by the pink-purplish coloration on their neck region. These patches are almost non-existent in females. The females are generally smaller than the males.

Habitat and Range

The mourning doves have a wide range of habitats. They occupy in both open and semi-open shelters. They build their nests in areas such as farms, grasslands, trees in cities and near human habitats and lightly wooded areas. Their nests are made of conifer needles, small twigs, and grass blades. The nests are usually made flimsily. They prefer to build their nests on elevated areas. However, if they lack a suitable elevated area, they go ahead and build the nests on the ground. They tend to avoid swampy and thick forested areas.


Most of the mourning doves feed on seeds. In fact, seeds form up to 99% of their diet. They have a preference of canola, corn, millet, safflower, and sunflower seeds. The birds would rarely scratch the ground in search of the grains. They instead tend to eat what is visible, rather than searching for what is hidden. They have been observed to perch on the stems as they feed. On rare occasions, mourning doves have been observed to feed on snails and small insects. They generally feed to their satisfaction before flying away to rest as digestion occurs. They often gather at drinking points in the morning or in the evenings.


Mourning doves drink water by suction. They do not lift or tilt their heads as they drink water. They lay on the ground or on tree branches to sun bask. As they sun to bask, they stretch one of their wings and process takes up to around 20 minutes. Dust bathing is a common behavior of the mourning doves. They stoop their head between the shoulders as they sleep. Both male and female take care of their younger ones. They feed them with dove milk in the first days after hatching.


The mating session begins with the males making some noises as they fly over the females. They then land and the male approach the females. At this point, the males usually puff their breast feathers. The male then leads the females to potential breeding sites. The female then chooses one site where they build their breeding site. The female is left to build the nest as the male moves about gathering building materials. They then afterward mate. The females would then later lay the eggs, two to five in number. Both sexes incubate the eggs when the laying period is over. The males incubate from morning to afternoon and the females take over for the rest of the day. The nest is never left unattended during the incubation period. The eggs are hatched after a period of about two weeks. The mourning doves are usually monogamous, one male mates with one female. They tend for their young ones together. However, whenever the need to acquire a new partner arises, they do so.


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