Mourning Dove

by Kyle Sweet, The Sanctuary Golf Club, Florida Master Naturalist


Size and Shape – Plum bodied, long pointed tail, short legs, small bill and small head in comparison to the body.

Color Pattern – Delicate brown to buffy. Tan overall with black spots on the wings

Behavior – Fly fast on powerful wing beats, often with sudden ascents and descents.

Habitat – Nearly anywhere for deep woods

One of the most common birds from southern Canada to central Mexico is the Mourning Dove. Due to it being so common, most would recognize its characteristic mournful cooing as one of the most familiar bird sounds out there.

As its wide distribution and enormous population, estimated at 350 million birds in North America, would indicate, the Mourning Dove can be found throughout a variety of habitats including farms, open woods, grasslands and of course open parks and golf courses. We have certainly enjoyed the sights and sounds Mourning Doves day after day at The Sanctuary.

It has been documented that often, Mourning Doves mate for life. In warm climates, Mourning Doves may raise up to six broods annually, which is more than any other native bird. It’s a very busy year for a pair of doves in the south as the egg incubation is about 14 days and the hatchlings remain in the nest for another 15 days. That’s a month right there and it’s not over. Once the young leave the nest, their care continues as they typically perch nearby the parents and are fed by the parents for the next 1-2 weeks. It’s easy to add up those numbers. A pair of Mourning Doves in the south, where more broods are had vs. their northern counterparts, would average 240 days of parenting care of egg, hatchling and young adult care……wow!

All that care would make anyone hungry. Mourning Doves can eat up to 20% of their body weight per day, foraging for seeds mostly on the ground while occasionally perching on plants to take seeds. Seeds make up nearly 100% of their diet and are a favorite visitor to many backyard bird feeders. Platform feeders seem to suit them best. Their ground foraging skills aren’t lost at the bird feeder as they are often seen beneath the feeder as often as atop.

Mourning Doves don’t seem to mind the hustle and bustle of human activity and will often nest on a ledge just above a doorway, in a hanging basket ( as shown in this photo ) or in the obvious location, a tree. Nesting within close view gives the observer to watch the incubation, the chick’s rapid growth and the fledging of the young is quite a cycle to see. Mourning doves are ever present all around the islands. You might hear one before you see it but you are certain to see one too! A common bird that we all know with a great story and one beginning birders can identify and learn from for sure.

Did you know……

Mourning Doves are so adaptable, they can actually survive in the desert by drinking brackish water without becoming dehydrated.

Mourning Doves are hunted at a rate of 20 million birds annually, but still remain the most abundant bird in North America with an estimated population of 350 million birds.

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