Monday, March 22, 2010

Gentle Mourning Doves

The first birds to arrive in my backyard this month were the mourning doves, primarily this couple that shows up several times a day:

I wake up every morning to the distinctive “coo coo” sound uttered by males during the warmer months as they search for a mate. For many, it is a mournful sound; for me it is soothing and relaxing. Who needs valium when you have mourning doves?

Until I moved to Kingston, I’d never seen this member of the dove family, mainly because I’d simply never noticed. And when I did spot my first mourning dove, I didn’t know what it was.

Here are some interesting facts about these lovely birds:

- Mourning doves are monogamous, and it’s believed that they pair for life.

- In the south, these doves can have 5 – 6 broods a year; in other areas, they may have 2 – 3 broods that consist of 2 eggs each.

- They walk instead of hop.

- 99% of their diet consists of seed; some of their favourite foods include corn, millet, safflower and sunflower seeds. Rarely will they eat insects.

- The oldest (known) mourning dove was 31 years and 4 months old.

- These doves incubate their eggs continually; males and females take turns with this task. Males do the daytime shift while females sit on the eggs at night.

- A mourning dove’s wings make a distinctive whistling sound when it takes flight.

- Unable to sweat, mourning doves pant like dogs during the hottest months to stay cool.

- Very quick and strategic, with the ability to fly up to speeds of 89 kilometers (55 miles) per hour, mourning doves can flee most predators if they are aware of their presence.

- Although mourning doves are considered to be the worst nest builders, they are very devoted parents. Nests are rarely ever left unattended by an adult, and the feeding of the young is done by both parents, which demonstrates that parenting is shared equally.

- When doves pair together to mate, they demonstrate affection by preening (cleaning each other).

- Doves are typically gentle, so it’s not surprising that they are a symbol of peace.

I really adore mourning doves with their quiet, timid nature. They are not aggressive toward the other birds, they don’t make a mess, and they are perfectly content to eat whatever food is dropped from the feeders, picking up visible seeds, never scratching or digging the ground. These lovely birds are always welcome in my backyard. Unlike the starlings that turn the feeding areas upside down every time they pass through. But that’s a story for another day...


  1. What an interesting post, Martha! We have lots of mourning doves here, too, but I didn't know much about them. Amazing to know that they can live to be over 31 years old! I love watching them in my birdbath. Most birds come to the bath and flitter around nervously, not staying for long. The mourning dove settles in, placidly soaking for as long as five minutes and looking so very content.

  2. Martha I just told John the age of that dove and we are both shocked ! We have them every year in our garden and they truly are so peaceful and beautiful to watch .. the first time we heard that call was while we lived in Holland .. it reverberated from the roof to the kitchen and it was shocking at first .. we didn't have a clue what it was ! LOL
    We love these guys and try to keep a peaceful garden for them and the Goldfinches .. I can't imagine a garden without them now : )

  3. We have lots of doves in our garden too ... they can be messy at times though. Interesting reading this morning.

  4. Thanks Beth, I didn't know much about these birds until I moved here. In fact, I didn't even know of them. I guess the expression 'you learn something new every day' is definitely true. And I do enjoy having these birds in my yard. They don't cause any problems, and they stay for long periods. They're very sweet.

    Joy, I think these are the sweetest birds, along with those adorable goldfinches (waiting for them to show up!). And after visiting for awhile, they seem to be the least fearful of us. I can get very close to them before they feel the need to fly away. They're cute.

    Crafty gardener, really? I've never had that problem with the mourning doves; they're probably one of the only birds that don't make any messes in my back yard. And they're the quietest, too. I guess there are all types!

  5. I fed a baby Mourning Dove that was abandoned by his parents. I was looking information up on my little friend. The sad thing is, is they can live to around 14 yrs in captivity, a 1.5 yrs in the wild.

  6. That is true about the mourning doves living much longer in captivity. In the wild, they are always in much more danger. It's sad.