Mourning doves are widespread throughout North America, occurring as far north as southern Canada during the breeding season and migrating into southern Mexico for the winter. In between those ranges, this dove is primarily a year-round resident.
Because the mourning doves’ range is so variable, they also have an array of suitable nesting habitats. These birds are found in the mixed forests of the east, grassland and scrub habitat of the mid-and southwest, and the evergreen-dominated west. Nest locations are typically in trees, shrubs, on ledges, or the ground.
These delightful backyard birds could even be nesting somewhere near you. If you are interested in learning more about where and when mourning doves nest and how you might be able to attract a pair to your backyard, read on!
The nest of a Mourning Dove with squabs (chicks) inside
Mourning doves nest in trees, bushes, vines, on ledges, and occasionally on the ground (when suitable trees and shrubs are absent). How high-up nests are built is extremely variable, anywhere from ground level to 200 plus feet in the air.
During early nesting season, doves seem to prefer nesting within the cover of conifers. However, once deciduous leaf-out occurs, they are just as likely to choose trees such as oaks and cottonwoods for nest sites.
Because mourning doves are widespread, their habitat and nest-site preferences are incredibly variable. Generally, though, their primary nesting habitat consists of woodland or grassland edge ecosystems. They do not nest in dense interior forests. It is also not unusual for these birds to nest in human-made structures, including abandoned buildings, gutters, and immobile equipment.
Mourning Dove nest
Mourning dove nests are nothing fancy. They are typically a simple bowl-shaped platform of small twigs arranged rather flimsily in the crook of a tree or on a ledge. Doves may also build on top of another bird’s abandoned nest or directly on the ground.
The time of year a pair of mourning doves' nest depends on their region. In warmer climates, the nesting season generally begins in late February or early March and runs through October. In colder, northern climates, the season is usually delayed by a month or two.
Nesting Mourning Dove hidden in aloe cactus
The nesting season for mourning doves generally occurs between early spring and mid-fall (March - October). During this period, a mated pair may have five or six clutches. A single clutch takes about a month to raise, between incubation and when young leave the nest.
Nest building begins with the male mourning dove inspecting potential sites and attracting the female to them with his nest-soliciting call. Once she chooses a site, the male collects materials, while the female arranges them into a simple bowl shape. Nest materials include small twigs, pine needles, and stems. Construction generally takes place in the morning and lasts two to four days.
A completed nest is fairly flimsy, but it does the job of holding eggs and young. Mourning doves often reuse old nests or nest sites. Occasionally, they even use the nests of other birds, including blue jay, robin, and common grackle.
Mourning Dove gathering nesting material
Baby mourning doves generally leave the nest about fifteen days after hatching. For the first week or two, the young doves will remain near the nest to be fed by their parents.
Females do most of the feeding for the first twelve to fifteen days. After this period, the male takes over most of the feeding, while the female begins the process of recycling the nest for the next brood.
On average, mourning doves raise two to three broods per nesting season. In warmer climates, these birds are known to raise five or six broods. A single clutch typically has just two eggs.
It is not uncommon for something to happen to the eggs immediately after laying. When this occurs, female mourning doves can lay again in less than a week. On the other hand, if something befalls the chicks during the brooding period, the female may need two or three weeks to clean the nest and relay.
A breeding pair of mourning doves
Mourning doves generally reuse the same nest site if they have raised a successful brood there. These birds are known to return to a successful site every year and may raise as many as five broods in the same nest site within one year.
Mourning dove eggs are solid white and have no markings. They are generally elliptical in shape and range from 2.6 to 3.0 cm long and 2.1 to 2.3 cm wide.
Two Mourning Doves eggs in the nest
Mourning doves can begin laying eggs as early as March in warmer climates. In colder regions, females may not lay the first eggs until April or May. Nesting season for these doves continues through October.
Mourning doves will use platform nest boxes. You can place the platform in an area with dense vegetation - somewhere with trees, shrubs, or hanging plants that can provide cover. Though doves occasionally nest on the ground, it is best to put your nest box at least ten to fifteen feet in the air, this offers the pair and their eggs better protection from predators.
Mourning Dove in the nest with a fledgling
Generally, mourning doves roost in dense thickets or evergreens at night. During winter, they will flock together at roost sites. Doves do not usually sleep on the nest unless a female is brooding her young. Throughout the nine to ten-day brooding period, females will stay on the nest at night, with the male roosting nearby.
Mourning doves commonly nest in backyards. They may utilize a variety of sites for nesting, including trees, shrubbery, gutters and overhangs on homes, and abandoned equipment (immobile vehicles or farm equipment).
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