One of my earliest memories of hearing bird sounds is my recollection of the hauntingly familiar song of the mourning dove (Zenaida macroura). As a child, I grew up riding my bike around the streets of White Plains, New York and I often remember seeing these birds at the park and perching on telephone wires. As an adult and as an avid bird watcher, I have observed these birds quite frequently. This entails watching them while they are sunning themselves in trees, foraging for food on the ground or at the feeders, and sometimes watching their often not so graceful flight in the air. Although I have observed these birds quite often, I have to admit they are not on my top list of must-sees. What I can appreciate and from what I have observed is the fact they seem to form a sort of keen social structure and pairs have been known to be generally monogamous. I rarely observe solitary mourning doves. They are either in pairs or flocks. I also believe these birds hold deep symbolic meaning for some individuals and cultures. I would like to explore this symbolism as well as share some interesting facts and information about the mourning dove.
A perching mourning dove.
Mourning Dove Facts
A mourning dove sitting in the snow.
Mourning Dove Symbolism
Symbolically, the mourning dove can be associated with mourning and sorrow, these birds can be viewed as both spiritual as well as hopeful. Although the white dove is regarded as a universal symbol of peace in the world, the mourning dove also represents the same. In some cultures, the mourning dove stands for new beginnings, great expectations, and as a spiritual messenger. The roles of these birds may include helping us to find inner peace and go about our lives calmly and with purpose. The states of Wisconsin and Michigan consider the mourning dove as their official state symbol of peace. It is also the national bird of the British Virgin Islands.
Mourning Dove Description
The mourning dove is plump-bodied with a head that seems small in comparison to their bodies. These birds have small bills and short legs. The tail is long and pointed. They are a delicate brown to a gray-buff color all over with a pinkish color below. There are black spots on the wings and the outer tail feathers are white, contrasting with the black inner feathers. Adult males have bright purple-pink patches on the neck sides, with light pink coloring reaching the breast. The crown of the adult male is also a distinct bluish-grey color.
With the coloring of these birds, they blend into their surroundings quite well.
Mourning Dove Mating Call
The call of the mourning dove is a distinctive cooOOoo-woo-woo-woooo, by males in order to attract a mate. Other sounds include a nest call of cooOOoo by paired males to attract mates to a nesting site. The song consists of a perch-coo that is given mainly by males, that are unmated from a visible perch.
Two perching mourning doves.
Mourning Dove Sounds
There is also a greeting call that consists of a soft ork by males when they rejoining their mates and an alarm call that consists of a short roo-oo by either male or female when threatened.
In flight, the wings of the mourning dove make a fluttery whistling sound that may be difficult to hear. The wing whistle is much louder and more noticeable upon the take-off and landing of these birds.
A mourning dove perching on a log.
Mourning Dove Food
Almost ninety-nine percent of the mourning dove’s diet consists of seeds. These birds favor cultivated grains and even peanuts, as well as wild grasses, weeds, herbs, many other plants, and occasionally berries. They will also sometimes eat snails.
A mourning dove with its back turned to the camera.
Mourning Dove Nest
Courtship will begin with a noisy flight by the male mourning dove, followed by a graceful, circular glide with outstretched wings and the head down. In regard to nesting, the male will lead the female to the site. The female will choose a site and build it. The male will help in bringing the materials. The nesting site is usually constructed in deciduous and coniferous trees, shrubs, or on the ground, or sometimes on the ledge of a building or another type of structure. The nest is a flimsy platform made up of twigs.
A mourning dove looking down.
Mourning Dove Young
There are two white eggs that are incubated by both of the parents. The young are also fed crop milk and in regard to pigeons and doves, this is called “pigeon milk.” This is a secretion from the lining of the crop of the parents that is regurgitated to young birds by both of the parents. The young will usually leave the nest within fifteen days. The young mourning doves will remain nearby to be fed for the next one to two weeks. In the south, mourning dove pairs may raise as many as five to six broods in a year.
A mourning dove in the trees.
Mourning Dove Migration
Mourning doves are resident to long-distance migrants. These birds will remain over the winter but may move south from the north during the fall months.
A mourning dove sunning itself.
I hope you have enjoyed learning about the mourning dove and thank you for reading.