Amazing Facts – Mourning Doves

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Mourning Doves

The mourning dove is a member of the dove family, Columbidae. The bird is also known as the American mourning dove, the rain dove, and colloquially as the turtle dove, and was once known as the Carolina pigeon and Carolina turtledove. It is one of the most abundant and widespread of all North American birds and a popular game bird, with more than 20 million birds shot annually in the U.S., both for sport and meat. Its ability to sustain its population under such pressure is due to its prolific breeding; in warm areas, one pair may raise up to six broods of two young each in a single year. The wings make an unusual whistling sound upon take-off and landing, a form of sonation. The bird is a strong flier, capable of speeds up to 88 km/h.

Mourning doves are light grey and brown and generally muted in colour. Males and females are similar in appearance. The species is generally monogamous, with two squabs (young) per brood. Both parents incubate and care for the young. Mourning doves eat almost exclusively seeds, but the young are fed crop milk by their parents. It is the national bird of the British Virgin Islands.


  • Like all birds, Mourning Doves are unable to sweat, so to stay cool during hot weather, they pant just like a dog. Panting requires the doves to drink a great deal of water due the excessive loss of moisture to evaporation.
  • Doves are one of the few species of birds that drink by sucking up their water instead of taking a bill full of water and letting it trickle down their throat. It can suck up its total daily requirement in less than 20 seconds.
  • Mourning Doves’ nests are woven together by the female with materials collected by the male. The male supervises the construction while standing on the back of the female as she works.
  • Look for the female Mourning Dove incubating her eggs from late afternoon until midmorning, and then watch for the male to come and take his turn during the heat of the day.
  • It is estimated that between 50-65% of all Mourning Doves die annually.
  • The average lifespan for an adult Mourning Dove is 1.5 years.
  • Male and female Mourning Doves look very similar, but the male is slightly larger and has a more colourful bluish crown on its head and a pink coloured chest.
  • Both Mourning Dove parents feed their young on “crop milk,” a yogurt-like secretion produced by the walls of their crop.
  • Mourning Doves’ have been clocked at flying speeds between 40-55 mph.
  • The Mourning Doves’ diet is almost strictly seeds (99%) which they forage from the ground, preferring bare ground to areas of tall vegetation or thick cover.
  • The feathers of a Mourning Dove are loosely attached to their skin and serve as a means of escape by easily pulling free when grabbed by a predator.