Our Wild Neighbors

Mourning Dove

Zenaida macroura

A beneficiary of landscapes altered by humans

Image of a Mourning Dove, mounted on a branch, and seen from behind with its head turned to the left.

Description of the animal

  • Small head, small dark bill, beautiful black eyes with white edges, large elliptical wings, long pointed tail, and short reddish legs.
  • Grey and brown markings, lighter, pinkish lower body.
  • Spotted wings with black edges underneath and white edges on top.
  • Trademark black, crescent-shaped mark under its eye.
  • Length: approximately 30 centimetres.
  • Weight: approximately 150 grams.
  • Feet have four fingers, three pointing forward and one towards the back. The Mourning Dove is a perching bird.

Habitat and needs

  • Present in agricultural, urban, and semi-urban environments.
  • Feeds almost exclusively on seeds. Occasionally eats herbaceous plants, snails, and insects. When it eats, it swallows a small quantity of gravel. It stores seeds in a wide part of its oesophagus before flying to a safer location to absorb and digest them. The gravel helps it crush the seeds.
  • During mating season, it is easily located by its plaintive cooing. The male fluffs its neck feathers and waddles while nodding its head and waving its tail.
  • Forms an inseparable couple. The Mourning Dove is monogamous.
  • Raises its young as a couple. Both the male and female secrete a whitish liquid high in protein and lipids through their crops. This “pigeon’s milk” is fed to their squabs during their first week of life.
  • Enjoys bathing in puddles after a rainfall and submerging its bill all the way up to its nostrils and continuously drawing up water to drink.

Relationship

  • The Mourning Dove is among the most abundant and widespread birds in North America. Thus, it can often be heard and seen. To observe it, check out telephone wires, tree branches, or birdfeeders.
  • With approximately 70 million birds killed annually, it is the most hunted bird species in the Northern Hemisphere.
  • The Laughing Dove, its cousin, is often adopted as a pet.

Living with them

  • To attract the Mourning Dove:
  • Install platform birdfeeders and fill them with millet, crushed corn, and shelled sunflower seeds.
  • Plant dense shrubs or deciduous trees to provide nesting sites.
  • Keep cats indoors. The Mourning Dove hates cats!

Participating cities where this animal has been seen