The Mourning Dove, also called the Turtle Dove or the Rain Dove, is an elegant, slim-tailed, little-headed dove that is considered as one of the most common birds across North America. It loves to perch on telephone wires and hunt for seeds on the ground. It is also known for its speedy, bullet-straight flight movement. It creates soft, prolonged calls that sound like a wail. Upon take off, their wings produce a sharp whistling or whinnying sound. It is one of the most frequently hunted species in the continent, with more than 20 million birds shot annually in the U.S. alone.
The Mourning Dove has a medium-sized body that has a length of 12 inches and weight range of 4 to 6 ounces.
It has a full-rounded body shape and a long tail, with short, red legs, and a little bill that has a darkish color, commonly a brown-black hue. The head’s small size does not look in proportion with the bird’s bulky body. The lengthy, sharp tail distinguishes the North American doves from the rest of bird species in the continent. It also has broad, elliptical wings, and perching feet.
The color pattern of Mourning Doves perfectly complements their open-country environments. Their plumage is generally delicate brown to bluffy-tan, coupled with black spotting on the wings and black-edged white tips to the tail feathers. The bird;s eyes are dark, with light skin that surround them.
Distribution and Habitat
The preferred habitat locations of the Mourning Dove are open country, scattered trees, and woodland edges, although significant numbers roost in woodlots during winter. They feed on the ground in grasslands, agricultural fields, backyards and roadsides.
The species is deemed as a resident throughout the Greater Antilles, most of Mexico, the Continental U.S., and southern Canada.
The diet of Mourning Doves primarily consists of seeds, making up 99 percent of their diet. These seeds include cultivated grains and even peanuts, as well as wild grasses, weeds, herbs, and sometimes berries. Occasionally, they would eat snails. The young are fed with crop milk by the parents.
They eat approximately 12 to 20 percent of their body weight per day, or 81 calories on average.
Mourning Doves are great flyers. They fly fast on strong wingbeats, occasionally making abrupt changes in elevation and dodges, with their sharp tails stretching behind them.
They are often found eating on the ground and in the open. Males have preferred ‘cooing perches’, which they defend from other males.
Males and females show affection towards each other by preening with tender nibbles around the neck. This leads to grasping of beaks and bobbing of heads up and down in unison.
The nest is a combination of pine needles, twigs, and grass stems. It lacks a nest lining and has little insulation for the chicks. For a span of 2 to 4 days, the male brings twigs to the female, which she consequently weaves into a nest with a diameter of 8 inches. Occasionally, Mourning Doves recycle their own or other species’ nests.
Their typical nesting locations are dense foliage, on the branch of an evergreen, orchard tree, mesquite, cottonwood, or vine. They also typically nest on the ground, particularly in the West. Because of their adaptation to human habitation, they would sometimes nest on gutters, eaves, or even abandoned equipment.
The average size of the clutch is 2 eggs, and the average number of broods ranges from 1-6. The incubation period runs for 14 days, and the nestling period spans from 12-15 days.
The Mourning Dove is listed as least concern in the IUCN Red List.
According to the North American Breeding Bird Survey, the bird’s population has slightly declined since 1966. However, due to the increase in human habitation as the years go by, its population has gained pace.
The estimated global breeding population of Mourning Doves is 120 million, wit 81 percent spending some part of the year in the U.S., 19 percent in Mexico, and 5 percent in Canada. It has a 5 over 20 rating on the Continental Concern Score and is not included on the 2012 Watch List.
The bird is now deemed as North America’s most famous game bird. However, this popularity is also seen as a major threat to their population. Another threat to their numbers is lead poisoning, which happens when they forge on the ground where hunting lead shots have fallen.