What is a Mourning Dove?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 21 November 2019
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The Mourning Dove ( Zenaida Macroura) is a dove with an extensive range. You can find the five subspecies of these doves from South America to Canada. Mourning Doves are easily recognized by their somewhat mournful call, thus inspiring their name. They may be known by their alternate names as the American Morning Dove, Carolina Turtledove or Carolina Pigeon. The bird has the distinctive pigeon look with a small rounded head, a thin body, and brown and grey coloring. Average size is about 12 inches (30.48 cm) in length at maturity.

Some hunt the Mourning Dove, and it is estimated that hunters kill 45 million birds yearly. The population of the Mourning Dove has remained relative stable, despite their being hunted. About 130 million Mourning Doves populate our world. Part of the counterbalance to hunting is that the Mourning Dove replenishes its population regularly. In warmer climates, the dove may have as many as six broods a year.


Though this extensive amount of reproduction yearly would seem to quickly increase the population, it doesn’t. A high rate of mortality exists for Mourning Dove younglings; they are easy prey to predatory animals, and may fall ill from disease early in life. Roughly 70% die before reaching maturity. Further, where they are hunted, parents can easily be shot, thus leaving no one to care for young chicks. There isn’t really a season when the Mourning Dove may not be actively caring for young, so avoiding shooting mother and father birds by hunters is difficult.

Doves are typically gentle and the Mourning Dove is no exception. When pairs of doves gather together to mate, they mark their affection by cleaning each other (preening). The male allows his mate to choose their nesting site.

Some nests may be stolen from other birds or be abandoned squirrels nests. Some strange places Mourning Dove nests have been discovered in include potted plants and buildings. These lovely creatures have adapted very well to human intrusion on their territory and can be found in both urban and rural settings.

The baby Mourning Dove is impressively attractive and extremely helpless. Parents both must feed the young, and began introducing part of their main diet, seeds, after about 10-15 days. Mourning Doves rarely eat bugs or crustaceans of any kind, most preferring small seeds like millet, safflower and sunflower. If you have Mourning Doves in your area, you may well attract them with a birdfeeder containing any of these.

The Mourning Dove is often thought of as harmless bird, and indeed this is true. Its quiet call and gentle beat of wings are sounds that to many evoke peace. The bird is a symbol for peace in both Wisconsin and Michigan. Many associate the dove not only as a symbol of peace but also as representative symbol of the Holy Spirit.


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do you know if you can home a mourning dove like homing pigeons? i work at an animal hospital and one of my client brought one in and i'm fostering it and i'm not one to give up my fosters so I am trying to find out if I can train him to be a free flying homing mourning dove. If I can do you have any helpful tips on how to train? thank you for your time.

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