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10 Things You Might Not Know About Mourning Doves

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Interested in learning more about the birds who call High Park home? Check out our Birds of the City online naturalist course and build on your birding skills from the comfort of your home!

For us city dwellers, there are certain animals that we are just used to seeing in and around the concrete landscape. Mourning Doves are a great example of this! We hear them in our neighbourhoods and see them at our bird feeders all the time. With animals, like the Mourning Dove, which we frequently see, it can happen that we lose our excitement or interest in them. However, if we choose to shift our way of looking at things and take some time to learn more, we’ll begin to see these “common” animals in a whole different way!
10 Unique Facts About Mourning Doves
  1. Quick in the Air
Mourning Doves have long, pointed wings, and pointed tails which are longer than other dove species. These are just some of the features on a Mourning Dove’s body that allow them to fly surprisingly fast. They’ve been recorded flying at speeds of up to 80km/h! During take-off, if you listen closely you will hear that they make a whistling or whining sound. Though it may seem like it comes from their throat it comes from their wing feathers. This sound acts as an alarm for nearby predators to run away and to warn other birds around them  
  1. Famous Relative
The Mourning Dove is thought to be one of the closest living relatives to the extinct Passenger Pigeon. Furthermore, did you know that the Mourning Doves can sometimes be confused with the Eurasian Collared Dove or the White Winged Dove. If you notice a thick black band around the back of the neck then it is an Eurasian Collared Dove. If you notice a white stripe on the wings of the dove, then it’s a White Winged Dove.   
  1. Till Death Do Us Part
Loyalty and commitment are very much so a part of the Mourning Dove’s way of life. They will stay with the same mate throughout the breeding season. It is even thought that some will stick with the same mate throughout their life.
  1. Nuts about Seeds
Mourning Doves mostly eat seeds, not insects. It makes up 99% of their diet and they will consume up to 20% of their body weight in seeds each day. Sometimes, when they grab seeds off the ground, rather than eating them, they will collect them in their “crop” for digestion later. The “crop,” is an enlarged part of their esophagus. If you have noticed, they have large chests which will expand when they are feeding.
  1. Natural Straw
Other birds drink water by filling their bills and letting the water run down their throats. However,  Mourning Doves do things a little differently… they’ll drink water by sucking it up!
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  1. Their Name Comes From their Call
Their name, Mourning Doves, comes from one of their coo-ing calls. Those who heard the call often found it sad or mournful. This call is generally referred to as the “perch coo”, a song sung by an unmated male on a perch. These birds have other well-known nicknames, such as “turtle doves”, or “rain doves”.  What makes them even great is that they do not need a wingman. The well-known “cooOOoo-woo-woo-woooo” call is almost always made by the male Mourning Dove and not the female. In fact, it is a wooing call, used to entice a mate or potential mate.
  1. Odd Sleeper
Mourning Doves sleep differently from other birds. Their head will rest between their shoulders, close to their bodies, rather than tucked under their shoulder feathers. 8 Teamwork Makes the Dream Work Male and female Mourning Doves will work together to feed their newly hatched young “Crop Milk” or “pigeon milk” for the first couple days of their life. This protein and fat-rich “milk” is reminiscent of cottage cheese. It is secreted in the adult dove’s crop lining and is regurgitated for their young to consume. By the fourth day of life, the diet starts to move to seeds, and by two weeks the young are almost fledged. Good things come in twos, could not be any more true. When Mourning Doves lay their eggs, it is almost always just two eggs. A larger clutch of eggs, or a single egg is a pretty rare occurrence for this species of bird.
  1. Everyone is the Same
Unlike some species such as Northern Cardinals, where you can tell the difference between male and female, male and female Mourning Doves have the same feathers. They both have pale grey bodies, pink legs, and black spotting on the wings.  Males are slightly bigger than females, with chests and heads that are a little bigger. However, these differences can only be seen if you look at the birds closely. 
  1. They are Adaptable
Mourning Doves can be seen in many places like parks, farms, or grasslands. In Canada, you can see the birds in southern areas of the provinces. They are attracted to semi-open/open habitats, and will not be found in places with deep forests  Though these beautiful doves can be seen from the comfort of your home, they can also be seen here at High Park Nature Centre! Through our tours, classes, or school field trips you can learn about these birds from our experts! For our book lovers, you can check out some of our book recommendations from our Nature Book Club to learn more about Mourning Doves and other birds! Though these birds can be seen in many places, cold winter days can be a bit challenging for Mourning Doves that are living in the northern parts of their geographic range. It is not uncommon to spot them with frostbitten toes and missing toenails. Keep an eye out for Mourning Doves on your next visit to High Park!

Interested in learning more about the birds who call High Park home? Check out our Birds of the City online naturalist course and build on your birding skills from the comfort of your home!