Sunday, May 2, 2010

Apple #454: Mourning Doves

Don't feel much like talking today.

I took a few photos of some mourning doves in the woods a couple weeks ago.  Here are the photos and some facts about them.

A pair of mourning doves. Probably mated for life.
(Photo by the Apple Lady)

  • Mourning doves are the most common type of dove in the United States.
  • They are also the most widely hunted game bird.
  • They have been clocked at flight speeds in the 40 to 55 mph range.
  • Their call is distinctive and familiar: coo-OO-oo, oo, oo.  The sound is a bit mournful; hence their name. 
  • This is the male's call and it is used to mark territory or to court females.
  • Females on the nest make a different call which sounds like ohr, ohr.
  • Studies suggest that they mate for life.
  • Mourning doves make their nests in evergreen trees and typically lay two eggs per brood.  But they have six broods in a year, which makes them sort of like the rabbits of the bird world.
  • One egg is laid in the evening, the second the next morning.
  • The food they feed their young, called "pigeon milk" or crop milk, is secreted by the lining of their crop.  It has more protein and fat than either cow's milk or human milk.  It looks and smells like cottage cheese.
  • The hatchlings get crop milk exclusively for the first three days of their lives, and then they are slowly transitioned to seeds.

One of the pair. Hunched up like this, they were a little hard to identify at first.
(Photo by the Apple Lady)

  • Mourning doves live mainly in open, grassy areas.  
  • They like to sit on telephone poles or wires. 
  • They like to eat the seeds of wheat and buckwheat and common weeds.  They can often be seen walking on the ground picking up seeds. They are not shy of feeders.
  • Most birds' feet have special adaptations to make them resistant to freezing.  Mourning doves, however, often lose several toes due to winter freezing.  This makes it difficult for them to scratch for seeds.
  • When startled, they will burst into flight.  Their wings make high-pitched whistling noises.

(Photo by the Apple Lady)

By the way, this step-by-step search from is really helpful.  If you know a few details about a bird, like its color and a general idea of its habitat, you can narrow the field down to a few choices and see which ones most closely resemble the bird you saw.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)
Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds, Mourning Dove
Chipper Woods Bird Observatory, Mourning Dove
BirdJam, Sounds of the Mourning Dove, Field Guide to Birds of North America, Mourning Dove


  1. Every spring/summer there is a pair of mourning doves that nests in my backyard. They let us get surprisingly close before flying away.

  2. Awesome!

    Also, love your pics! I want to know more about your lenses and shit.

    Also, maybe a post on lenses.


  3. Hope you're feeling OK. Mourning doves are so sweet; love their gentle call.

  4. Not very helpful

  5. Your comment isn't all that helpful either. What did you want to learn that you did not discover here?

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