Mourning Dove

Zenaida macroura

From suburban gardens to farms and wilderness areas, the mourning dove is one of the most common and familiar birds in North America.

Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove

Pair of Mourning Doves perched in a tree

Pair of Mourning Doves perched in a tree

Close up of a perched Mourning Dove

Close up of a perched Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove perched on a vine, with a House Sparrow in the background

Mourning Dove perched on a vine, with a House Sparrow in the background

Appearance & Identification

What do mourning doves look like?

Mourning doves have thin, black beaks, black eyes, and pinkish-red legs. The most distinctive features of the mourning dove are the collection of black spots on top of the closed wing, and the black spot on the side of the head.

Mourning doves are small, elegant birds that have a soft grey overall color when viewed from a distance. They have a heavy-set profile with a round head and an elongated tail.

Closer inspection reveals that the back and wings are a greyish blue/brown color and the underparts are a soft buffy peach color.

Adult male and female mourning doves look mostly alike, but males tend to have a blueish crown and a more colorful breast than females. These features are useful but not always reliable for telling the gender of mourning doves.

Juvenile mourning doves are quite distinct from adults. They have whitish plumage on the head and face, and the feathers of the upper parts are tipped in white.

Close up of a Mourning Dove

Close up of a Mourning Dove

How big are mourning doves?

There are five accepted subspecies of mourning doves, and the two that occur in the United States vary somewhat in size. The eastern subspecies are typically larger than the western subspecies.

Male mourning doves are slightly larger than females, measuring 10.5-13.5 inches (26.5-34cm) in length. Females measure 9-12 inches (22.5-31cm) in length. These common doves have a wingspan of 14.5-17.5 inches (37-45cm).

Male mourning doves are also slightly heavier than females. Males weigh between 3.5 and 6 ounces (96-170g) while females measure 3-5.5oz (86-156g).

Read on to learn more about the biology and behavior of the mourning dove.

Mourning Dove eating seeds from a platform bird feeder

Mourning Dove eating seeds from a platform bird feeder

Calls & Sounds

What sound does a mourning dove make?

Mourning doves make a typical ‘coo-ing’ song. Males produce the familiar four or five noted songs from a prominent perch to attract a mate. This song starts with 'coo-oo' that rises in pitch and is then followed by two or three louder 'OO' notes.

Male mourning doves also produce a three-noted 'coo OO oo' call when selecting a nest site. Female mourning doves produce an 'ohr ohr' call to attract the male to the nest when it's time to switch places during incubation.


What do mourning doves eat?

Mourning doves feed almost exclusively on seeds. They show a preference for agricultural crop seeds like sunflowers, corn, and wheat but also feed on a variety of wild grass and shrub seeds.

For more information on the diet of a mourning dove, check out this comprehensive guide.

What do baby mourning doves eat?

Baby mourning doves (known as squabs) are fed a special diet known as crop milk for the first 4 or 5 days after hatching. Both parents produce this protein, mineral, and fat-rich food source.

After the first week or so, the chicks are fed the same seeds that the adults feed on. Fledgling doves will continue to be fed by the male for 12 days after leaving the nest.

Mourning Dove perched on a fence post during the autumn

Mourning Dove perched on a fence post during the autumn

Habitat & Distribution

What is the habitat of a mourning dove?

Mourning doves occupy a very wide range of habitats but tend to avoid dense forest environments. These birds prefer open habitats including scrub, agricultural fields, forest edges, and open woodland.

What is the range of a mourning dove?

Mourning doves occur right across the United States. They can also be found in the south of Canada, through Central America to Panama, and from Cuba to the West Indies.

Where do mourning doves live?

Mourning doves spend their days foraging for seeds on the ground. They avoid dense vegetation where the seeds they eat will be hard to find.

At night, these birds usually roost in dense branches of trees where they will be safe from predators, although they have been found sleeping on the ground too.

Mourning Doves are one of the most common bird species in the US

Mourning Doves are one of the most common bird species in the US

How rare are mourning doves?

The mourning dove is one of the most abundant bird species in the United States. Their total population is likely to be between 300 and 500 million individuals.

Where to see mourning doves in the US?

Mourning doves are common birds in farmland and suburban areas across the United States. They can be attracted to backyards by spreading birdseed on the ground or on open platform feeders. These birds can also be spotted in a variety of open habitats in parks and wilderness areas.

A pair of Mourning Doves perched on a branch

A pair of Mourning Doves perched on a branch

Lifespan & predation

How long do mourning doves live?

The mourning dove lifespan varies depending on many factors. In the wild, mourning doves are thought to live for as long as 19 years, but one amazing individual was found to live for over 30 years.

Nevertheless, these birds are highly unlikely to survive that long in nature. In fact, most mourning doves are only expected to live for a single year.

What are the predators of mourning doves?

Mourning doves are hunted by a very wide range of predators. Raptors like falcons and hawks are important diurnal predators, but owls will also feed on these birds after dark. Mammals like raccoons, foxes, coyotes, and domestic cats will also feed on these common birds.

Mourning doves are an extremely popular game bird with hunters across the United States. Millions of these abundant game birds are harvested each year.

Are mourning doves protected?

Mourning doves are protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Are mourning doves endangered?

Mourning doves are not endangered. They are evaluated as ‘Least Concern’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Mourning Dove in flight

Mourning Dove in flight

Nesting & Breeding

Where do mourning doves nest?

Mourning doves nest in a variety of sites. These birds construct a simple platform nest in a bush, tree, man-made structure, or even on the ground. They favor sites where open areas meet woodlands, but they are happy to nest around human habitation.

Their nests can be constructed anywhere from ground level to over 260 feet (80 m) up in trees and other structures.

What do mourning dove eggs look like?

Mourning dove eggs are pure white without any markings. They measure 1-1.2 inches (2.6-3cm) long and 0.8-0.9 inches (2.1-2.3cm) wide. These eggs usually weigh 0.2-0.25 ounces (6-7g).

Do mourning doves mate for life?

Mourning doves form pairs and may stay together for more than a single breeding season. They do not necessarily mate for life, however, and they may acquire a new partner before the start of the next nesting period.

Nesting Mourning Dove

Nesting Mourning Dove


Are mourning doves aggressive?

Mourning doves are generally gentle creatures. They are not really equipped for protecting themselves against predators or for fighting with other birds.

Mourning doves will defend food sources and attack intruders by thrusting their wings and beaks when necessary. They will also put on a display by lifting their wings and spreading their tail feathers to intimidate threats.


Do mourning doves migrate?

Mourning doves from colder northern areas do migrate south for the winter. The migration distance varies greatly, with some birds flying thousands of miles each year and others only moving short distances.

In the south of their range, where winters are mild, mourning doves do not need to migrate at all.

Mourning Dove drinking water from a small pond

Mourning Dove drinking water from a small pond


Why do they call them mourning doves?

Mourning is a word that conjures up some pretty sad and melancholy emotions. While mourning doves might be beautiful creatures, it is their somber and haunting calls that have earned them this name.

Are mourning doves always in pairs?

Mourning doves are commonly seen in pairs during the breeding season. They will join up to form large flocks in the fall and at other times of the year, however.

Do mourning doves sleep on the ground?

Mourning doves usually roost in trees, bushes, and other elevated positions. They will sleep on the ground in very open environments, however.

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Quick Facts


Scientific name:

Zenaida macroura





22.5cm to 34cm


37cm to 45cm


86g to 170g

Learn more about the Mourning Dove

Other birds in the Pigeons and doves family

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