The humble Mourning dove (Zenaida macroura) is one of the most abundant bird species in North and Central America. This well-known bird maintains a colossal population and is widely distributed across the Americas, extending from Canada and Alaska to southern Mexico and small parts of northern South America.
So, where exactly do Mourning doves live?
The Mourning dove lives in the Americas and is most abundant in North America and Central America, with isolated vagrant populations in northern South America. These widespread birds have an extensive range of 11,000,000km2 or 4,200,000m2, including much of Canada, every US state, most of Mexico, the Caribbean and Greater Antilles, Costa Rica, Panama, and other parts of Central America.
Many Mourning dove populations migrate, so much of Canada will only see the birds in the spring and summer, and much of Central America will only see them in the fall and winter.
In terms of habitats, the Mourning dove is very flexible and inhabits most open and semi-open grasslands, plains, shrublands, and rural and semi-urban areas. They tend to avoid swampy areas or very thick forests.
Of course, there is much more to learn about this prolific bird - read on to find out!
Mourning Doves are pretty flexible, and occupy a range of different habitats
In North America, the Mourning dove’s range extends from the southern Canadian states of southern British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Ontario to all of the continental United States. Mourning doves are found in every US state except Hawaii.
Canadian and north US populations usually migrate in winter, so they are only present in spring and summer. Central, coastal, and interior US populations are both resident and migratory, so they can be found all year round.
In Central America, Mourning doves are found in virtually all of Mexico, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Belize, extending south to Costa Rica and northern Panama.
They’re also found across the Greater Antilles islands of Cuba, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and the Cayman Islands, south to some of the Lesser Antilles, though mostly lacking from Montserrat and further south from there.
Vagrants are found in Venezuela, Columbia, and other parts of South America. Most populations in Central America are only present during fall and winter migration and are largely absent in spring and summer.
Mourning doves are found in every US state other than Hawaii
Mourning doves such a wide array of environments and habitats that giving a precise description is tough!
Mourning doves generally prefer open areas or loose, sporadic woodland but are highly adaptable and live everywhere, from temperate rainforests to semi-arid savannah plains. They’ve been found to nest in at least 55 species of trees and shrubs in North America, though preference is sometimes shown for oak trees, willows, and mature conifers.
However, Mourning doves don’t always nest in trees - on the contrary. For example, many nests in some parts of California and the west are built on the ground, especially when suitable trees or shrubs are lacking. In addition, though they’re not especially common in cities, Mourning doves often nest in rural and suburban settlements.
Mourning doves generally avoid dense woodlands. Instead, they seem to prefer plains, grasslands, shrublands, edge woodlands, or sparse woodlands. They’re also largely absent from some coastal areas.
While Mourning doves are not as adapted to urban environments as some birds, urban populations are increasing in some areas.
Open woodland can be a good place to see Mourning Doves
Mourning doves tend to build nests 5 to 15ft above the ground in a tree or shrub. They’re flexible, though, and aren’t averse to nesting on the ground if they need to.
Mourning doves happily nest on the ground where trees and shrubs are missing, e.g. in desert or arid environments. Overall, though, these birds prefer light, open woodlands and grasslands.
They’re not the biggest fan of super-dense woodland and avoid some coastal regions, swamps and boglands.
Close up of a Mourning Dove in its natural habitat
Mourning doves are far from rare, with a population exceeding 200 million in the US alone. The global population is estimated to be over 400 million. These attractive doves are extremely common visitors to backyard bird feeders and rural or suburban parklands.
If you want to see one, that shouldn’t be difficult - so long as you’re in the USA, southern Canada, or parts of Central America. Doves, in general, are common, and there are many that look like Mourning doves, including the Turtle, Collared, and Eared dove.
Mourning Doves are common at feeders over the majority of the US
Mourning doves are both sedentary and migratory. Many birds in Canada and the northern US states of Montana, Washington, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Maine migrate, heading south to southern California, Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Arizona, and New Mexico.
In addition, many birds head further south to Central America, as far south as Panama.
Birds in much of the central and southern USA are sedentary, don’t migrate, and remain in their breeding grounds all year round. So long as the doves can find sufficient food throughout winter, they don’t necessarily need to migrate.
Mourning doves are known for their prolific breeding behavior and have been recorded nesting 6 times in one year!
Sedentary Mourning doves in mild environments don’t always stick to the traditional spring breeding season and mate throughout most of the year. This is partly why this bird manages to upkeep high numbers, even despite being a popular gamebird with some 20 million shot each year.
A pair of Mourning Doves foraging for food on the ground
Mourning doves are found in every US state except Hawaii, including Alaska, where they breed along the southeast. They’re common throughout continental states but tend to migrate from the north, heading into warmer parts of the US and Central America.
Mourning doves breed in the southerly regions of most southern Canadian states, including Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, British Columbia, Alberta, and Manitoba.
They’re primarily absent from Canada in the winter because they migrate to the US and Central America.
Mourning Dove perched on a tree branch in spring
Mourning doves are common birds across most of their extensive range. There are over 200 million of them in the USA, probably increasing to 400 million or more across the entire Americas. Populations are stable, despite some 20 million birds being shot each year as gamebirds.
You can spot them in many parklands, open woodlands, grasslands, and rural environments. So wherever you go in the USA, there’s probably a Mourning dove near you!
Mourning Dove in flight
Most Mourning doves in Canada and the north USA migrate every year, heading to central and southern US states and Central America. Some migratory journeys are short, consisting of hundreds of miles, whereas others are long, consisting of thousands of miles.
Birds winter as far south as southern California, New Mexico, Texas, Mexico, Costa Rica, and elsewhere in Central America, extending to the Greater Antilles, the British Virgin Islands, and south Panama.
Mourning Dover perched during the winter
Mourning doves span much of Central and North America during summer, stretching from as far north as Saskaketacha, British Columbia, Ontario, and Alaska to the Caribbean and Central America.
While southern populations tend to head north in summer, some remain sedentary.
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