The mournful vocalizations of the Mourning Dove are heard through the spring and summer in backyards across the United States: “Who-OO-o-o.” Why so sad? Mourning Doves are one of the most abundant and widely distributed birds, are well suited to human habitat, and admired by bird lovers everywhere. Cheer up guys!
Among our feeder birds, Mourning Doves tend to domestic duties in rather unique ways. When it comes to home-building, they come up wanting. The nests are very flimsy, loose agglomeration of sticks and twigs. But they are doting parents! Both male and females feed their hatchlings “crop milk,” a liquid secretion from their crop walls. The young are “weaned” onto a seed diet and, from then on the diet of the Mourning Dove is exclusively seed-based.
Mourning Doves are ground-feeding birds. They frequently clean up spilled seed from tube and hopper feeders. They can be offered their own dining spot by presenting Aspen Song® Value Blend in a platform feeder placed near ground level. As you watch doves at the feeder, it may seem like they are quick eaters. In fact, they fill their crops hurriedly and digest later at a protected roost. When not chowing down at your feeder, they may be in nearby agricultural fields at harvest time where they glean various seed and grain crops dropped on the ground by mechanical harvesters.
One of our largest feeder visitors, Mourning Doves have a sleek body with a long tail that tapers to a point. Notice the subtle, iridescent hues of pink, blue, gray, olive-green, and brown. The most striking field mark is the border of blue skin around the eye. Black spots on the wings and behind the eye complete a visage confused with no other.
Once a pair has had their fill at your feeder, listen for their “wing whir” as they take flight. This whistling sound is another classic diagnostic for Mourning Doves and means that your yard has been blessed with the presence of a classic feeder bird.
Reference: Otis, David L., John H. Schulz, David Miller, R. E. Mirarchi and T. S. Baskett. 2008. Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology.doi:10.2173/bna.117