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Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove
Zenaida macroura
(Order Columbiformes; Family Columbidae)

Zenaida macroura perching (from Wikipedia

Diagnosis: Mourning Doves are medium-sized birds about 10.5 to 13 inches long, with a wingspan of roughly 17 to 19 inches, and 4 to 6 ounces in weight. Males and females are very similar in appearance. Both are fawn-colored birds with a distinctive small, black crescent-shaped mark below the eye. Eyes are black with a white eye-ring. Backs and wings are darker than heads and underbelly, having a more greyish appearance. The breast may have a rosy wash in males. Additionally, males have a slate-blue crown with speckles of iridescence at the nape of the neck. Black spots decorate the backs and coverts in both males and females. The tail is long and pointed, with the outer four tail feathers tipped in white. Legs and feet are a pinkish-orange, with three toes forward and one reversed. The bill is black.  Juveniles are distinguishable by dark brown mottling on the head, neck, and breast, as well as white-tipping on the margins of their wing feathers.

Subspecies: There are five subspecies of Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura carolinensis, Zenaida macroura clarionensis, Zenaida macroura macroura, Zenaida macroura marginella, and Zenaida macroura turturilla) which are nearly indistinguishable from each other.

Video: Adult Male Mourning Dove

Natural History: This species is a prolific breeder. Although the breeding season does not officially start until March/April, Mourning Doves may begin breeding as early as January if weather conditions are favorable, allowing for as many as six broods a year. The breeding season typically ends around September. Courtship begins with a noisy flight by the male. This is followed by a graceful, circular glide, the wings outstretched and the head down. The male will then land and approach the female with a puffed out breast, bobbing his head, and calling loudly. Mourning Doves are monogamous, and mated pairs will often preen each others feathers. Females choose a nesting site and will build rather flimsy nests of twigs, pine needles, and grass. Clutches normally consist of two small, white eggs. Incubation takes roughly 14 to 16 days, with both parents taking turns on the nest. The young fledge anywhere from just 11 to 17 days after hatching, although the parents will continue to feed and supervise them for an additional 2 to 4 weeks.

Distribution: Endemic from southern Canada south to Panama. Although many of the northern populations migrate, some of the southern populations in warmer climates will remain at their locations year-round. This species is found throughout Kansas.  Distribution of Zenaida macroura in the United States. From South Dakota Birds and Birding (

Call: The call of the male is a distinctive five-note call of "coo-OO-oo oo-oo" with the highest and loudest part in the middle, and a pause between the first three notes and the last two.  To hear various calls:

Habitat: Grasslands, farmlands, open woods, and semi-urban areas.

Diet: Seeds and grains; very rarely insects.

Conservation status: Least Concern.

Avian Web:

Study of Northern Virginia Ecology:

YouTube: Adult Male Mourning Dove:

Robbins, Chandler S., Bertel Bruun, and Herbert S. Zim 1983. A Guide to Field Identification: Birds of North America. Golden Books, New York.

Kroodsma, Donald 2008. The Backyard Birdsong Guide: A Guide to Listening. Chronicle Books, San Francisco.

Image Credits:
Zenaida macroura perched. Photo from:

United States Distribution map from:

Submitted by: Alicia Oberg, July 2011.

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Generated on 2011. This website is continuously updated.
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