Wild Profile: Meet the mourning dove

Published: December 24, 2019 · Updated: May 11, 2020

Mourning dove By Pictureguy/Shutterstock

They’re North America’s most plentiful and widespread doves, and possibly one of the most abundant bird species on the entire continent. Why? Mourning doves are very, very good at breeding. In some southern areas, one pair can raise as many as six broods per year! Plus, unlike many birds, mourning doves survive easily in human-altered habitats, and even in extreme climates. Experts suspect the doves can live in the desert, for example, thanks to their ability to drink brackish water without becoming dehydrated.

Mourning doves are also expert seed collectors—and eaters. They’ll eat up to 20 per cent of their body weight in a day, or what amounts to about two cups of popped popcorn. That’s not a bad haul for a bird smaller than a pigeon. Mourning doves scarf seeds off the ground, store them in their generous crops, and fly away to a perch—they’re fond of telephone wires—to digest.

You’ll see mourning doves year-round (they’re common winter feeder birds, along with black-capped chickadees, American goldfinches, and blue jays). But you’ll also hear them. They have that soft, sad, mournful call—oowoo-woo-woo-woo—and their wings make a whistling sound when they take flight.

Read about the impact of climate change on bird size here.

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