The American Mourning Dove, Rain Dove, or Turtle Dove are graceful birds that are found and hunted most frequently in North America. Their tails are slender, they have small heads and are plump in shape with dark brown or gray backs speckled with a little black. Their breasts are usually either tan or faint rose in color, though the edges of their tail feathers are lined with white.
It is easy to find them in your neighborhood on telephone wires or perches on structures. They are even sometimes on bare ground with other birds gathered where they’ve stocked their seeds. Their names are due to their discernible call that sounds mournful in nature. Now that you know a little more them and how they look, this article will then answer questions about them that you may have.
What do Mourning Doves eat?
99% of their diet almost exclusively are made up of seeds. Big or small, they can consume roughly 12 to 20% of their body weight each day. Other things they typically consume are cultivated grains, wild grass, peanuts, weeds and herbs or berries and kernels of corn. They even sometimes go after snails. The different types of seeds they eat are a variation between black oil sunflower, canary, milo, small grass and millet seeds.
They have an inherently curious way of eating as they use grit, which are most commonly small pebbles small chunks of concrete, gravel or other tiny small objects, to grind up the seeds they eat, and they usually prefer to eat these on the ground. Another curious fact about them is that they can drink brackish spring water without getting dehydrated like humans would.
Do Mourning Doves mate for life?
They in fact re monogamous creatures and they do indeed mate for life, they will even typically remain with one another through cold winter months. They tend to form really strong bonds in pairs that can even extend beyond death. When their mate passes, they will still remain and stand by their dead mate to watch over them and care for them. If the body of their dead mate is no longer present, they will still return to the site where it passed. All of this shows us that these birds seem to have the ability to feel loss.
But just like us, they do move on after a while, but not all of them are committal and only pair up with other birds during mating season. It is primarily the male bird’s job to find seeds to store so he can feed his mate. Both the committed doves and the ones that only pair up for mating purposes will stick with their mate to help sit on their eggs to incubate them or care for their offspring during the mating season, taking turns watching over them.
During courtship, the males tend to show off their forms by gliding in a circular path with widely spread wings that beat loudly, while ducking their heads slightly to garner attention. Then on the ground, he will try to approach the female in a stiff manner with a puffed out chest. He bows and coos and sings emphatically. They then preen one another’s feathers as a sign of the acceptance of his advances.
They are mostly committal birds despite the fact that their lives aren’t very long due to getting hunted by creatures bigger than them such as cats, hawks and even us humans.
Do Mourning Doves migrate?
They mostly migrate through the familiar paths over land, but there are rare occurrences where they may fly over the Gulf of Mexico, though in Canada’s case, some will remain and stay behind knowing they have a sustainable food source for the winter such as feeders that some may have outside their homes. Some remain in winter because of their proximity to breeding range.
The ones that do choose to migrate do so during the day time in large flocks. Many move down south from northern areas in the fall, leaving the north because the weather tends to cool down late in August or early in September. The flocks will then leave to go back north to begin the nesting season around March and April. However, not all of them like to migrate, as the ones that are residential in nature are found all year round in southern most states.
Where do Mourning Doves nest?
The male bird takes the role of the provider, gathering supplies for the nest which consisted of flimsy twigs made into platforms by the female bird who then makes the nest for them. During courtship, the male searches for a good nesting place, eventually leading the female bird to the potential sites for her to choose where she’d like them to settle.
They usually make their nests in trees or shrubbery, sometimes they even choose the ground. In alternate situations, they can choose to build their nests on the ledges of buildings or other miscellaneous structures. This will be their nesting ground they’ll return to year after year after raising a brood successfully. When this brood does decide to leave their home, the male and female birds and their children will still travel in close proximity to their home
Where do they sleep?
The Mourning Doves usually roost in coniferous trees, sometimes on wood lots or in thick bunches of bushes or trees. In more urban situations, they take refuge atop man made structures. You can sometimes even find them on power lines, though they seem to prefer farming sites and are seen in such places regularly. These doves however are tactful in their choice of places to roost, as they often will pick a place that offers steady access to sustenance.
During mating season, they often sleep in twos and assist one another during the development of their eggs. However they do not sleep in pairs if they aren’t currently brooding.
How long do they live?
In the wild, these doves typically live up to two years, though there are some recorded cases of doves living up to five, seven or ten years old. Predators, diseases or accidental injuries are what mainly endanger these doves, so if they are able to avoid these things, they can reach up to five years old. The mortality rate of one year old doves can be up to 75%, meaning they are at high risk. The adults’ mortality rate is about 60%, not far off from their first-year birds. Two year old adult doves have an increased chance at surviving.
The numerous predators that can endanger the lives of Mourning Doves are bigger predatory birds such as crows, falcons, and hawk, while corvids, grackles, and even your typical house cat prey after them during the nesting period. However, rat snakes are more insidious, preying on the doves’ eggs. But it isn’t just predators that endanger them, as the doves can also suffer from Trichomoniasis, a common but very deadly disease for them. Their sheer number is probably what causes them to still remain present and living as this disease can cause major die-offs for their species The biggest outbreak had occurred in 1950 – 1951, over two years in Alabama and the states surrounding it, resulting in the harrowing deaths of fifty to about a hundred thousand doves..
The oldest known dove was 31 years old.
What does it mean when a Mourning Dove visits you?
A visitation from these doves are actually a good sign, and can even mean a message from loved ones that have passed in your life. Similarly to white doves, they represent peace and love, due to their mostly monogamous nature, security, piety and friendship. They can also symbolize forgiveness and liberation. They are also bringers and messengers of hope, grace and strength. Click here if you want to read more about Mourning Dove Symbolism.
What does a Mourning Dove sound like?
Mourning Doves can have a variety of sounds, most people describe their regular coos similar to that of owls, and as such, tend to mistake them for owls. They have low and deep coos, the reasoning behind their name, because they sound as though they are in mourning or are lamenting. They have multiple varying sounds, even as they are taking off and landing.
But it isn’t just them that make noises, as so do their wings that whistle loudly in the air, inadvertently scaring off their predators or warning their friends of their flock. Check the video below to hear and see them coo.
Are Mourning Doves pigeons?
If you have ever thought to yourself that Mourning Doves looked similar to pigeons, that is because there is a good reason for that. Pigeons and doves belong to the same species of birds, though their key differences are that doves just have smaller bodies and stature, while pigeons are larger, they share similarities in how thick and round their bodies are, how short their necks are, and how thin their peaks are. More specifically, they are of a closer species to the passenger pigeons, though they were unfortunately hunted to the point of extinction in the early 1900s. Compared to doves, pigeons also hold a different symbolism.
How to get rid of Mourning Doves
There should be no reason for you to want to be rid of Mourning Doves or feel the need to violently exterminate them, as there are simple and easy ways to simply repel them if they’re encroaching a bit too much on your property. Though the male can get aggressive an protective over their territory and their flock, there are ways to scare them that aren’t cruel.
If the doves have started overtaking your balcony or your garden, place fake plastic animals around where you usually spot them. Bobble headed ones work even better as they are a lot more believable, like scarecrows but for Mourning Doves. They will think these toys are predators out to get them, forcing them to find safer perch spots or nesting areas. Shiny objects bother the doves, too. Attach them to their favorite places. Flash tape is an example of something shiny that you can place onto branches as well. Even better, they crinkle and spook the doves.
A more imposing way to scare them is fitting spikes onto your balcony rails or where they like to nest in general, they’ll know that it isn’t a viable place to stay. Mourning Doves can also smell chemicals and stay away from them due to their toxic quality. If spikes seem too much for you, you can use hairspray, perfumes, or anything with long lasting pungency in places they like to stay. One sniff of the chemicals and they’ll trade places right away.
If you’ve got a garden that they like to plague to get into your potted plants for nesting, you can surround your plant with pine cones in the pot, this restricts the potential for nesting space that they want to utilize, and makes it substantially uncomfortable to even just perch at. Another clever idea is using ice cubes instead of the pine cones. Not only will it gradually provide your plant moisture, but it will also deter and spook them with the stark shift in temperature on their little feet. They will deem the space unlivable.
In the case of homeowners with bird feeders for other smaller feathered friends and their uninvited Mourning Dove guests, replacing your bird feeder with one that has a narrower and thinner ring will cause the doves to feel discomfort when perching on it to feed, and they won’t want to come back to it. You can put a roof over the feeder to enclose the space for the smaller birds around your home that can dive and swoop in and under it. The Mourning Doves, however, cannot as they are not as agile as the smaller birds.
If they are simply pestering you by crowing on your lot, look to the ground and see if you’ve got anything they may want to eat, such as scattered seeds. Since we know that they like to stay where they’ve got a steady stream of food, an easy way to force them out of your lot is to cut off their food supply. If you feed other birds on your lot, try to stop feeding them for a while. At first, try a week and observe if they slowly vacate from your area. Extend this period as long as needed.
Check also our article about the dove symbolism.
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