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Species Description

Mourning Dove

Zenaida macroura

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Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Columbiformes
Family: Columbidae


Grayish-brown on the head and backside, and pinkish-beige on the breast and belly. Wing and tail feathers are gray. White tips on the outer tail feathers can be seen during flight. Dark spots are present on the wings, and there is one dark spot behind the eye. The bill is small, curved and black. The legs and feet are dull red. The Mourning Dove measures 28 cm (10 in) from tip of bill to tip of tail. The Mourning Dove is well-known for its low cooing "mournful" vocalization, primarily repeated by unmated males but sometimes given more faintly by females.

Life Cycle

Breeding season is long, lasting from late February to early October. Nesting habitat is usually woodland or grassland edge. Flimsy, shallow nests are built an average of 5 m (15 ft) above ground in many different types of trees and shrubs, but sometimes a nest will be built on the ground if no suitable trees or shrubs are available. The male delivers nesting material to the female, who builds the nest. He stands on her back and offers her sticks and twigs, which she incorporates into a bowl around herself. The female lays 2 white eggs, which both parents incubate for 14 days. Both parents regurgitate crop milk to the young birds (called squabs). After 5 days, seeds are added to their diet. The young squabs fledge after 15 days, but parental feedings continue for up to 12 days after fledging.

Natural History

The Mourning Dove is among the ten most common birds in the United States. It is frequently encountered in open woodlands, grassland edges, and suburban areas, where it forages on the ground for seeds from grasses, weeds, and multiple-seeded flowers such as sunflowers. The Mourning Dove will also feed on agricultural grains where available, including wheat, corn, and millet. Predators include raptors (birds of prey), the Raccoon, cats, dogs, and snakes.


Mourning Dove Region Map The Mourning Dove is common year-round throughout Georgia where favorable habitat is present. The species ranges across the North American continent, sometimes even reaching Alaska.

Conservation Status

This species is common in appropriate habitat. However, humans impact these birds substantially. Mourning Doves are the most hunted game bird in the United States, and most states have a dove hunting season. Approximately 70 million birds (15% of the fall population) are killed by hunters annually.

Similar Species

The Mourning Dove might be confused with the Common Ground Dove, a smaller, stockier bird about 17 cm long (6.5 in) which is primarily a southern coastal species. The Common Ground Dove has similar coloring, but a short (often raised) tail and rusty wing feathers.