ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Little Mourning Dove, A Common Sight in the U.S.

Updated on November 10, 2012
male Mourning Dove(left) and the female(right)
male Mourning Dove(left) and the female(right) | Source

What? This is a Game Bird?

A familiar sight across the continental United States, Mexico, a small part of Alaska, and southern Canada, this little dove can be distinguished from similar species by its long, pointed tail bordered by large white tips, except the four innermost. The young ones appear more scaly and have more spots on the wings. You won’t have to go far to see them in your neighborhood. They are practically everywhere that you look. Although they are a hardy bird, extremely cold weather may force them out of our northernmost states. Yes, indeed, this is a game bird. Over 70 million of them are shot and put on the table every year. But this has not hurt their population any, for there are still more than 400 million of them!

Source

Communication

Both sexes coo, but while the male is loud and constant, the female’s call is sporadic and nearly inaudible. The male doesn’t coo during winter, but as the days get longer, and springtime awakens the urges within him, he fills the air with his sounds of love. The call has such a plaintiveness about it, that’s how the bird got its name. They are also known as turtle doves. The cooing is most apparent at dawn and the evening, diminishing in the middle of the day.

Source

Breeding and Nesting

The male is monogamous and generally mates for life. They are quite affectionate, billing and cooing through the year, but especially during mating season. Males are also very aggressive. The fights between males over females or territory division are frequent and can be bloody. Large territories tend to be whittled down as more males migrate to the general area, and the original landlord is unable to send them all elsewhere.

The courtship display is interesting and unique. He looks like a little turkey, strutting about with his neck feathers puffed up. His wingtips touch the ground and his tail is fanned out. Then he’ll clap his wings over his back, springing into the air and rising to nearly 100 feet, spiraling back down again on set wings to his love. He will continue to strut and fly until the deed is done.

The nest is done without rhyme or reason. The male gathers sticks in the early morning, presenting them to the female. She constructs a flat platform on the top of a branch near the main trunk or a widely spaced fork in the tree. Sometimes, they will take over a songbird nest, and use it as the base for their own. Evergreen trees are preferred, although bushes and other trees can be used. Most of the nest is made with coarse, heavy twigs. Inside will be finer twigs and small roots. The nests are so poorly constructed, storms will take them down. Then the doves immediately build another and go about their business. These doves have a couple of broods a year in the north, and as many as five in their southern range. They usually build another nest for the second batch of chicks.

Source

Eggs and Young

The average clutch is two pure white eggs. Most doves begin nesting in April, but with this having been an exceptional spring(2012), they were a good two weeks early. Records prove, the milder the winter, the earlier the doves nest.

Both sexes share incubation, roughly a two week period. The male usually broods from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., when he is relieved by his better half. They both tend to leave the nest together at early morning changeover to feed. The eggs are most subject to predation then.

Just prior to hatching, both birds begin to produce pigeon’s milk in their crops, which is triggered by the natural development of prolactin.

The squabs are completely helpless at hatching time. The thick, cheesy milk is pumped by the parent directly into the little ones’ throats, by inserting its little beak into the corner of the parent’s beak. Each feeding of a baby takes about 15 seconds to a minute. As the squabs grow, seeds and insects are fed to them mixed with their milk. After eight to ten days, the milk supply has nearly ceased, then the young are given a straight seed diet.

The young are covered with light yellow-white down at hatching time, but the blue skin is very plain. The primary feathers begin to appear after three days, and the eyes begin to open. After six days, the eyes are fully open, and the young are moving about in their nest. At nine days, the little ones are feathered out enough to fly if something bothers them. At twelve to fourteen days, they will fly from the nest, but stay in the area to be fed by the parents.

As soon as this brood is on their own, the parents get ready for the next brood.

Source

Habits

The dove doesn’t have to fill its beak with water and tilt its head to drink. It submerges the beak to the nares(nostrils) in water and uses suction power.

Like most birds, the dove will both dust and water bathe. The dust bathing activity clogs the pores of parasites, causing some of them to drop off. Water bathing is just as much for cleanliness as it is for its cooling properties.

In the fall, these birds will frequent feeding stations in both rural and urban areas. They tend to favor wooded fringes of open areas.

Food

They eat mostly vegetable matter and will partake shelled snails for their calcium value. In the fall, these birds will frequent feeding stations in both rural and urban areas. They tend to favor wooded fringes of open areas.

Source

Disease and Enemies

Trichomoniasis affects these doves by causing yellow cankers in the mouth and throat. They will cause death by starvation, due to the fact that they become so large.

Crows, jays, squirrels, snakes, opossums and raccoons are some predators that regularly egg eggs and young. House cats are a problem at feeders.

A Piece of Trivia

A Mourning Dove's feathers are so loosely attached to its body and will serve as a means of escape by pulling free when a predator has captured them.

Source

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Daniel. I had trouble with succulents in the winter, and now I know why.

    • profile image

      Daniel 2 years ago

      . I mix my own cactus soil with 50/50 soil to sand and some petilre. Using a porous ceramic pot like terracotta, well help reduce chances of any plant becoming waterlogged. Water only when the soil is *just* dry to the touch but not completely dry, as is the case with many succulents, otherwise you increase the potential for root rot. Reduce waterings in winter.Also likes light and warmth. Mine lives in a lightly shaded west facing window.Good luck everyone!

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Eddy. I am looking up your pigeons now, since I don't have any here.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thank YOU, gamby. It makes me happy to know that so many people enjoy these articles.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      A great share;so interesting and they look very much like our wood pidgeons. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and have a great day.

      Eddy.

    • gamby79 profile image

      gamby79 4 years ago

      Love watching these birds out my window each day. I always enjoy your interesting and detailed information and the awesome photos! Thanks!

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      And thank YOU, Meldz, for reading.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      They really are, Jackie. They are gentle and sweet, except for the males around mating season. Then they become antagonistic to one another.

    • profile image

      ignugent17 4 years ago

      It is amazing how this bird protect themselves. I always see them in spring time. Thanks for sharing the information. :-)

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Interesting, especially to know how these doves drink. I love them, there is something pup like about them, they are so sweet.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, shiningirisheyes. The sounds that the doves make is what earned them the title, "mourning." It's always nice to see you.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, kashmir! Thanks again for your continued support. Are there any birds that you personally, would like to learn about?

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 4 years ago from Upstate, New York

      The cooing these particular birds make has always sounded so foreboding and lonesome to me. I also learned another interesting fact through your stellar article. These are considered Turtle Does as well.

      Always a great job with your articles.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great hub, very informative and interesting hub with very beautiful photos. Well done !

      Vote up and more !

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Connie, they are pretty fast birds, so it could have easily escaped in the woods. Thanks for all the votes, and seeing you is always a pleasure.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      The doves and pigeons are all the same with the milk. It is a great nutritional aspect part of the family.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Oh, indeed they do, Kathy. Seeds are a good part of their daily diet and they like being close to people, too.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Yes, Jim, I adore those birds. There are so many of them around, and they are familiar with my Tri-State Bird Rescue days. Many of them used to climb on my feet and up my leg.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, AliciaC! Birds are one of my greatest pastimes, along with the photos and the weekly column. I appreciate your visiting.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      You're welcome, Martin. You know how I am with my birds...

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Francesa27. It is good to see you here.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Oh, yes, your species is a bit different, but basically the name. They have come very close to losing their little ones or eggs if they are in a heavy wind! Thanks for visiting, Nettlemere, you are a loyal friend.

    • grandmapearl profile image

      Connie Smith 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Hi Deb, I never knew very much about mourning doves except that they eat a lot at my feeders! This year I have had 12 pairs! That's the most ever I think, so I know they got busy earlier than usual. Once last year I was stunned when a dove came wheeling around the front corner of the house with a hawk in hot pursuit. I watched as they continued to fly off into the heavily wooded area down front and to the west. I always wondered if the dove got away.

      Thanks for sharing all this very interesting information. Voted Up & Interesting. Very enjoyable.

    • Highland Terrier profile image

      Highland Terrier 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      I never heard of a bird with milk before, thank you very much for this.

      Do other birds have this ability?

    • kathyinmn profile image

      Kathy 4 years ago from Jordan MN

      There is at least 1 pair my area. I love the cooing they do. I remember seeing them in NY also. They do come to the feeder

    • xstatic profile image

      Jim Higgins 4 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      Really interesting Deb! We have a lot of ringneck doves around here as well as Mourning Doves. That sound is one that seems peaceful.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you for the interesting and detailed information, aviannovice. I loved your photos, too - especially the last one!

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Well, if I ever was unimpressed by this bird, you certainly changed that. Thank you

    • Francesca27 profile image

      Francesca27 4 years ago from Hub Page

      Beautiful Pictures! I love these birds!

    • Nettlemere profile image

      Nettlemere 4 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      I think this is a different species to the turtle dove (Streptopelia turtur) we have in the UK, but related perhaps because they have similar habits - they're so rubbish at making nests I always wonder how they don't lose their eggs and chicks.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Billy! Put out a feeder and they might show up.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I must hang out in the wrong areas; I would not be able to tell you that last time I saw a dove. Interesting facts and information as always.