Mourning Dove

Mourning doves sitting on the fence in the backyard

The mourning dove is a regular visitor to our backyard during the year. Since they’re mainly ground feeders, I try to sprinkle bird seed on the ground around the various feeders, plus I see them on the ground around the one suet feeder checking out what has fallen from the suet cakes due to the other birds.

Mourning dove looking for seeds

So these are ‘robin-size’ birds that have short legs, a small beak, and a head that looks small in comparison with the rest of the body.

Mourning dove sitting on a chair arm in the backyard

Their long, pointed tail is a good identification marker, as it is unique among New World dove/pigeons.

In terms of color–they’re a pale brown to tan with black spots on their wings, tiny black dots on their cheeks, and the tail feather have black borders along the white tips.

Mourning dove migration map. Map (c) birds of the world

Mourning doves can be found within most of North America (with the exceptions of Alaska, and the northern and interior territories of Canada). While they’re found within the lower 48 states–it may only be during their breeding season (namely North Dakota), they may be both year-round & summer residents in the same state (such as in Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan), but year-round in the rest of the country. In the winter, they may even migrate as far south as Central America (usually from the northern ‘breeding’ areas).

Their diet consists mainly of seeds ranging from cultivated grains and peanuts to wild grasses, weeds, herbs, and fruits. They may also supplement their diets with the occasional snail or insect.

Mourning dove sitting on the roof of the shed

Two other unique facts on the mourning dove:

They’re considered a ‘game bird’ in North America. Their population within the United States is estimated at ~350 million birds, and ~20 million birds are caught during the hunting season.

They are able to drink brackish spring water without becoming dehydrated, allowing them to potentially survive in desert environments.