Mourning Doves (or “turtle doves”) are part of a specific family called the Columbidae which includes types of pigeons and doves. Mourning Doves are medium-sized doves with a length of 12 inches. They have a sort of light-tan color and a few dark spots on their wings, which are pointed at the end and are fairly strong. If you look closely you can distinguish males from females: males have light blue-grey crowns while females’ crowns are grayish brown.
These beautiful birds love to spread out in partly open areas, like farmland, grasslands and open wooded areas. Pigeons are well adapted to highly populated areas and though Mourning Doves aren’t as commonly sighted as them, (reason being that humans over time have hunted them for their feathers and still do in many US states where it continues to be legal) they can still adapt to the same environments. You may see them sitting upon street-lights or branches not too far from the ground.
You may underestimate them because they have delicate soft feathers and a fairly petite size, but they have powerful wings that can reach a speed of 40-55 miles per hour. Around breeding season, they may fly in a configuration in which they all fly one after another. Usually the one in the front of the pack is the “stallion” male who is currently or has already mated with a female.
Male Mourning Doves tend to have perches where they make lots of noise. Those particular spots they will defend from other males, shooing them away.
Nesting and Nestlings:
During the beginning of courtship, the male will fly around noisily and then end gracefully, but afterwards, he will go down to the female and puff up his chest with his head bobbing. Once they get used to each other (this may follow after the show of affection by the male or any other time after) they may preen one another as a show of affection. The male will then lead the female to his choices of future nest sites, which may vary from branches on trees to stoops on buildings. After picking where they want to nest, the female will then construct it. Males will contribute by gathering supplies and pieces of nature for the female to build the nest with. He may actually stand on her back while giving the supplies to her. The finished nest may be almost entirely made from twigs, straw, or grass blades.
Females mostly just have 2 white eggs which both members of the pair incubate. Like lots of birds, they take somewhat scheduled shifts. The male will take his shift at mid-day to the afternoon, while females will then take their shifts for the rest of the night. Luckily, they don’t have to be doing this for long; their eggs are only incubated for 2 weeks. After incubating, they will stay in the nest for about another 2 weeks. Then the nestlings become fledglings and leave the nest but still stay close by their parents and their nest for food.
Diet and Feeding:
When they pluck seeds from the ground, they are not eating them, they are stockpiling for digesting later. The seeds they collect, build up in the “crop,” which is a part of their esophagus. For the first 3-4 days of their nestling’s lives, male and female Mourning Doves work together to feed their new nestlings the crop milk (some call it “pigeon milk”). It is secreted by the parents’ crop lining, and is then regurgitated to their squabs. After 3-4 days, they stop eating crop milk and begin to ingest regular adult food.
Almost their entire diet is made up of seed, but occasionally they will eat other foods like berries, cultivated grains, grasses, weeds and herbs.
Attracting Them To Your Feeder:
These birds are common feeder-eaters. If you would like to attract them to your garden, try placing a flat tray (which should look like a picture frame) with lots of seeds in it. Wild-bird-watching.com suggestsed putting white millet, safflower and cracked corn on the tray. They said that it is the most common seeds that Mourning Doves will eat. For more information about Wild-bird-watching.com go to: http://www.wild-bird-watching.com/index.html
Other birds related to Mourning Doves are Rock Pigeons, or White-winged Doves.