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Mourning Dove

Scientific name: Zenaida macrouva

This slender grey dove make a mournful cooing sound which sounds like a lament, hence its name. To some it may sound a bit like an owl, but it calls during the daytime. These birds are easy to identify as they are often on the ground foraging. They are also powerful flyers and can reach speeds of 50 miles per hour. Males and females have a similar appearance.

In the video below, you can see how the chest of the dove puffs up to make this fascinating vocalization.


Photo Courtesy of Missouri Department of Conservation


4.2 ounce


9-13 inches

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The eat seeds, almost exclusively.


Often found in open fields, back yards, parks, and other open spaces. The mourning dove is usually foraging for seeds on the ground. You might notice them under your bird feeder, eating the spilled seeds left by other birds.

Life Cycle

They usually nest in trees and have several broods in a season. Both parents attend to the squabs feeding them “milk” for the first few days of life. (A few other birds such as the emperor penguin and the flamingo feed their young a regurgitated liquid from their crop.) They are unbothered by human activity and may nest near a house, in a hanging planter, and in other similar spots.

Pairs may preen each  other with gentle nibbles to the neck as a bonding ritual. Perhaps this behavior suggested the phrase “love birds”?

Ecosystem Connections

Since the dove spends much of its time on the ground, it is a common food for snakes, hawks and other predators.

Human Connections

Dove hunting is a very popular sport in other parts of the country. It is estimated that 20 million of these are taken in a year. The lead from the fallen shot has been known to poison these birds as they are ground feeders. In spite of hunting, the mourning doves numbers are secure as this practice is closely monitored, unlike in times gone by. Its close relative, the passenger pigeon, was once one of America’s most common birds and it was hunted to extinction. Read more about this story here.

Fun Facts

They can drink brackish water (salt mixed with fresh) and survive!

Interesting Facts

  • The male collects material for the nest, and the female constructs it.
  • They can breed several times over one season as only 40% survive.

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