The Mourning Doves Coo may sound sad, but it can be a signal of the dove beginning its nesting habits of claiming territory, calling a mate, and raising young.
The coo sound that a Dove makes is the reason they are called Mourning Doves.
Something unique to this species of dove is some of the places they decide to build a nest.
As you can see, this pair is in a hanging plant, and further down an old Robin nest on top of the security light at the back of the house is used. Two healthy squabs were raised from this nest.
Press the button to listen to the Dove coo sound
The Mourning Dove is slimmer than the pigeon and about 12 inches in length. The Mourning Dove has a soft gray-brown body and a gray patch on the head.
Black dots on their wings and a single black spot behind and below the eyes.
When perching, you'll notice a long tapered tail. In-flight, you'll see that the tail has a white-edged band.
Found in Canada and all the lower 48 states, down to Mexico. Also common in most types of habitats, excluding forested or wetland areas.
Doves are common at bird feeders and will eat a variety of seeds. Try placing bird seed on a Feeder Doves Love like this one. It's important to keep the seed off the ground.
Some of their favorites include White millet, safflower, and cracked corn. These are the most common seeds that Mourning Doves eat.
For more information on seeds and photos of each, please see our Bird Seed Page.
Doves prefer open land with a scattering of trees and shrubs.
During winter, mourning doves sleep in dense evergreens that protect them from weather and predators.
The Mourning Dove is one of the most widespread birds in North America because of its habitat adaptability.
The best garden habitat includes an open lawn, herbaceous borders, and flower beds, with scattered patches of trees and shrubs.
Include a source of water close to the ground (in winter, see: heated bird baths) in addition to providing bird seed and you should be able to attract these birds all year.
Mourning Doves nest on and in a lot of unusual places. They do not nest on the ground, which is a question we get asked often.
Beginning as early as March, Mourning Doves nest and begin building their nest, which is a loose nest of twigs, grass, weeds, and pine needles. Taking 2 - 4 days to complete.
I stress loose because their nest can be so lightly put together that often you can see through it from the bottom.
Many folks wonder if they should help the birds out. Mostly, I suggest leaving it alone, but I'm not there looking at it like you are.
If startled, they may fly off the nest too quickly and the eggs could fall from the nest.
Birdwatchers would be wise to wait until the eggs have hatched before approaching any nest.
Nest abandonment is very common with Doves. If they feel any threat from predators, whether human or animal, they may go elsewhere to nest, abandoning both eggs and nestlings.
The Mourning Dove nest can be found 5-25 feet above the ground, often in the crotch of a shrub or tree. Laying 2 white dove eggs that are incubated for 14-15 days.
When the mourning dove babies hatch, the adults will brood them continually for 4 to 5 days. You may not know that the dove's eggs have hatched during this time.
By day 6 or 7, if the weather cooperates, the adults will begin to leave them alone. Sometimes for long periods.
Night brooding of the mourning dove babies stops by day 9 or 10 and the young will leave the nest by day 12-14.
They have been known to reuse the same nest for five sets of eggs in a single season. Usually, 2 - 3 broods are raised each season.
The peak of the breeding season is April - July, although they may breed as late as October in some areas.
Pairs stay together (monogamous) through the season and some may pair up in the following seasons.
You can try attracting them to nest near you by placing a Dove Nesting Shelf attached to a tree or your house.
Another trick I've tried was to use a hanging plant container.
I fill the container with soil and top it off with some White Pine needles. White Pines have very soft needles unlike, many other types of pine trees.
I place the hanging container under a porch or below the roof of my garden gate.
If placed on your deck or porch, make sure you hang it close to the outside of the deck or porch.
Mourning Doves, along with Pigeons, produce a food called pigeon milk (not really milk) by glands in the crop of the adult bird.
The parent opens its mouth wide, permitting the nestling to stick its head inside to feed on the nutritious food.
In a few days, the "milk" feeding subsides and the adults will begin feeding the young squabs regurgitated seeds. Adults will keep feeding the young for about a month after hatching.
The adults will teach and help the young for a short time after the young leave the nest.
In the wild, the adult birds feed primarily on field waste grain. These include corn, wheat, grass, and weed seeds.
You can attract these birds to your feeder by supplying white and red proso millet, oil-type sunflower seeds, and cracked corn.
Often emails from bird watchers arrive asking, "Our dove has not left the nest in days. Will she starve or die of thirst? What should we do?"
Unlike most birds, Doves incubate their eggs continually. Since the male and female look alike, it appears the same bird is incubating the eggs the whole time.
The male does the daytime shift and the female does the night shift. If you are around mid-morning or mid-afternoon, you might get to see them change places.
Not to worry though, the switch was made while you were not looking.
People ask if Mourning doves mate for life. Often worrying about what happens when one of the doves dies.
Mourning Doves do not mate for life according to Cornell Lab of Ornithology, (citation below) they stay together seasonally and sometimes re-pair again the following season.
Here is what is meant by the term Birds Mating for Life:
I guess people would like to know what a surviving dove will do if its mate dies.
Sometimes the surviving dove will attempt to incubate the eggs or continue feeding the nestlings.
This is a hard task for a single bird and is often unsuccessful.
In due course, the surviving dove will find a new mate.
Since they nest several times a season, (2 - 3 is normal) they may raise a successful brood in the same season with a new mate.
While it's sad to lose these birds in your yard, be comforted knowing they will mate again.
According to the Cornell website, (All About Birds) average lifespan for first-year birds is 1 - 1.5 years.
First-year doves have a mortality rate of 60 - 75 percent and adults have a mortality rate of 50 - 60 percent.
For any songbird, the first year of survival is the most difficult. If a dove survives their first year, they can live on average 4 - 5 years in the wild.
Read: We Rescued a Baby Dove
Birds that will prey on adult Mourning Doves include Hawks and Falcons. On the ground and in the nest: cats, raccoons, opossums, Grackles, Crows, and snakes will eat on doves and their eggs.
Due to their ground-feeding behavior, they are often caught by predators.
I get many emails complaining that doves have nested too close to the door or where dogs are contained. They ask "can I move the dove's nest?"
I'm sorry to say that when a nest is moved, most times it is interpreted as a predator attack, which will cause the Doves to abandon the nest.
All I can suggest is to do your best. Use the door if you have to and keep dogs monitored at fledging times.
There are times the nest must be removed. This happens when nests are located on movable objects such as automobiles or tractors that have sat for a while.
It's then that I would recommend trying to move the nest but keeping it as close as possible to where the nest was found.
Don't walk the nest 20 feet away and place it in a tree. Use common sense. It may not work out, but you've done what you can.
I am aware of others who have had success. --- That's my 2 cents on this matter.
Please don't write and tell me about the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. I'm aware of what it says and am confident in its intent. Thank you.
Many of our visitors have shared some unusual nesting sites that doves have used and how they dealt with things.
Northern populations move south while those in the mid-range are partial migrants and Southern residents stay in their area.
In most areas of its range, you'll see doves during the winter months.
Heated birdbaths can help in their winter survival.
This is up to you as many of our website visitors have told us they were successful at watering their plants with dove nests in them.
First and foremost, don't get water anywhere near the eggs, nest, or squabs. Doves always cover these three things when it rains. The adult takes the brunt of the weather.
If possible, wait until the adult is off the nest. Then, water around the edges of the plant making sure none of the water runs toward the nest.
If the adults are never off the nest, then I'll leave it up to you.
Some folks have been able to water successfully by gently approaching the nest and having the adult leave. Giving them time to water.
Be aware that this method might cause the adult to be gone for quite some time, waiting to see when it's safe to return.
There is always a chance they'll abandon the nest, but it's less likely if there are squabs in the nest.
If the plant is in a semi-shaded area, you can decide what you want most, the plant or the dove nest.
An idea for the future is to place a hanging basket just for the doves with plastic foliage lining the outside edge for cover.
Be sure to hang this planter in the same or close to where they previously nested.
Be sure to scroll on down for all the stories our visitors have submitted about having Doves
Doves are special to people because of their meaning in life and what it means to people when they see a dove.
We opened a comment section for people to share the special things that doves mean to them. Feel free to read and share your comments here, Doves Mean New Life.
Blockstein, D. E. and D. Westmoreland. (1993). "Reproductive strategy." In Ecology and management of the Mourning Dove., edited by T. S. Baskett, M. W. Sayre, R. E. Tomlinson and R. E. Mirarchi, 105-116. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole Books.
See also: Attracting Mourning Doves
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Heated Ground Bath
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