Also known as turtle or rain doves, mourning doves derive their name from their cooing calls. Most people who hear the sound describe it as mournful or sad. The birds are slender-tailed, small-headed, and extra graceful.

If you are into birds with a specific interest in doves, you are at the right place. Here, we will inform you all there is to know about mourning dove behavior. This includes its physical features, mating habits, feeding patterns, and flocking behavior.

What Do Mourning Doves Eat?

Interestingly, mourning doves do not like eating insects and spiders like other songbirds do. Instead, they prefer food like cracked corn, nyjer, sunflower seeds, millet, and safflower. They are complete granivores. As a result, they require more water to digest their food and generally survive.

Mourning Dove Physical Features

The male and female mourning doves have almost identical physical features. However, you can tell them apart through their distinct patches. For instance, a male dove has a unique bluish-gray crown, bright purple-pink patches on its head’s side, and a light pink breast.

On the contrary, a fully grown female adult adopts more brown and tan colors. The ones with blue and pink hues are not as bright as their male counterparts. Females also generally have smaller, rounded heads compared to the males.

Mourning Dove Mating Behavior

It’s common to see male, unmated mourning doves being aggressive toward each other. They will try to attract the females by perching and cooing during the better part of the day. Wing flapping is another successful trick that the males use. In some cases, they may vigorously fly up and down near the female.

If a female is interested, the two will “link up,” preening each other. They may also vibrate their wings to create a bond, signifying the strength of their affection. After episodes of cooing and sitting together, the female mourning dove bows as a sign of readiness for copulation.

After copulation, the preening and grooming continues, as is the bonding session. Even though mourning doves are seasonally monogamous, some mate for life.

Mourning Dove Migration

Do mourning doves migrate? Yes, they do? The birds, mainly found in Canada, Mexico, and the United States, have an estimated population of 400 million. With such huge numbers, occasional migration for food and parasite evasion is inevitable. However, scientists classify them as partial migrants.

Mourning doves usually migrate north and south. Rarely do they go east-west. You will find them in the southern states and Mexico during winter. They’ll migrate to the northern range, nesting in large flocks when the weather gets warmer.

As aforementioned, note that not all mourning doves are migratory. For instance, residential doves usually remain in the temperate southern states all year round.

Where Do Mourning Doves Sleep?


As expected, mourning doves sleep in places away from their predators’ sight/reach. These include chimneys, covered porches, eaves, and high tree branches. As for nesting, they do so in living or dead trees but prefer doing so on the ones on the edge of open fields.

What Do Mourning Doves Sound Like?

Mourning doves are famous for their songs (perch-coo) for unmated males and calls. To make themselves noticeable, male doves with no partners usually perform a soft coo-oo, followed by two other noisier ones.

As for the calls, anyone can perform them, though differently. While nesting, the partners perform various nesting calls. The males do a three-parted “coo-OO-oo” while the females perform the “Ohr Ohr.”

Apart from nesting and mating, mourning doves make loud whistling when taking off or landing. Similar to rock pigeons, they can also clap their wings while flying.

Mourning Dove Nesting Behavior

It doesn’t matter whether or not the mourning doves migrate; every year, they will find a perfect place to nest. At this time, the nesting parents do not fly far from the nest. However, when the juveniles are big enough to fly, the distance can increase to 10 square miles.

The population of local doves usually rises during the summer nesting season as they are joined by other migratory doves. However, when the hunting season approaches and the other birds migrate, only the residential and the local birds remain.


Mourning doves are largely peaceful birds known for their unique songs and calls. They mainly inhabit the southern regions and Mexico but occasionally migrate to the Northern areas as they see fit. Since these doves are strictly granivores, they mostly eat millet, sunflower seeds, and cracked corn.

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