I always think of my Mourning Doves as beautiful, gentle, giants as they are bigger than most songbirds. Some Mourning Doves migrate while others stay with us year-round here in Western Mass. I walked outside this morning and heard my doves singing their soulful song of coos that tell us spring is coming. Mourning Doves are pretty with their different shades of tan and gray plumage. They have a gray patch on their head and the males have an area of light pink that shows up in certain lighting. They have a black spot under their eye and more black spots on their wings. They have a long rounded, gray tail with white edges on the feathers. They have round, black eyes with a slight white eye ring, a black, curved beak and orange-pink feet. You can hear these birds when they fly as their wings are quite large.
Mourning Doves are ground-feeders for the most part, like most larger birds are. They will visit my platform feeders on occasion, but I usually see them eating off my deck rail or the ground, under hanging feeders. They help the squirrels clean up the leftover seeds. They do not eat insects etc. like most songbirds. They eat seeds, weeds and wild berries for the most part. My doves like my sunflower seeds, safflower, cracked corn, millet and suet. They seem to eat a lot, but they are actually storing some seed in their throats for later. This area of their esophagus is called a “crop” and it expands as they store seeds there. They also sleep differently than other birds do. They hunch their heads down as opposed to tucking them away like other birds do, as you can see in the picture below.
These birds have a couple of recognizable sounds they make. The first is the beautiful cooing sounds you are starting to hear now. These coos sound sad to me, and others apparently as that is how they got their name. But, the 2 different songs are actually the males singing and trying to woo nearby females with their coos! They have another chirping, trilling call that I hear whenever they are startled. It is usually heard along side their wing-flapping whistle-like sounds. Here is the audio from this morning’s Romeo-I wish him success! You can hear the second, shorter mating coo on my eBird list from yesterday (March 2, 2022) on my Robin’s Nest page at around :20. You can also hear the startle call at around :38 and :56.
These birds live near wooded areas generally, along the edges and like to hang out in yards in the suburbs. Mourning Doves mate for life and work together to both build their nest and raise their young. A couple can build their nest in just a few hours-much quicker than most birds! They use sticks, pine needles and grass. They will almost always lay 2 white, round eggs, and only incubate those eggs for 2 weeks. They need to have this routine down to a science as they can raise up to 6 broods in a single season! The parents both feed the babies milk from their crops in the beginning and then move to seeds. The babies have a very mottled appearance as you can see from the pictures of my baby dove below. My doves had made nests inside my shrubs right outside my dining room window for the past couple years so I have had a birds-eye view of the fledglings growing up!
My son likes to call my Mourning Doves pigeons and I constantly correct him LOL. The Rock Pigeons he is referring to are actually a different species in the same Columbidae family of birds. They look different, sound different and live in different habitats. Mourning Doves are smaller and don’t have the bold colors feral Rock Pigeons have. The doves are seen more in the suburbs. Pigeons tend to have larger flocks and like the city more, though Monson has a group that likes to hang out on the church steeple downtown! They are similar in their diets and the fact that they are both prey for larger birds. The pigeons I have heard tend to make short, single, muted coo sounds that blend together as one group sound. After my explanation, my son has decided to call my doves suburban pigeons-guess he is not wrong LOL.