Driftless Prairies: Native Habitat Restoration

Nature inspires awe!

Mourning Dove

When we first bought the land and came out birding, we didn’t see Mourning Doves. It wasn’t until a few years later that we saw and heard their haunting, yet lovely, call. I find it interesting that their flight silhouette is very similar to a kestrel and I wonder if that wasn’t intentional so they were not viewed as prey.

Wisconsin Bird Sounds has a great recording of their mournful song.

In November 2011, Birds and Blooms magazine printed 10 surprising facts about mourning doves:

1- When they grab seeds off the ground, they are not necessarily eating them. Instead, they are stockpiling for digesting later. The seeds collect in the “crop,” which is simply an enlarged part of their esophagus.

2- They are primarily seed-eaters, not insect-eaters. They can and do eat weed seeds, which is certainly valuable to gardeners as well as farmers, or anyone living near overgrown vacant lots. (They do like corn, though.)

3- The cooooOOOOO-woo-woo-woo call is almost always uttered by the male bird, not the female, and is—wait for it—a wooing call, an enticement to a mate or potential mate.

4- When they sleep, their head rests between their shoulders, close to the body (they do not tuck their little heads under their shoulder feathers, like a lot of other birds do).

5- Their long, pointed wings are almost falcon-like in appearance, while their pointed tails are longer than those of any other doves. These “design features” enable the birds to fly fast. Mourning doves have been clocked at 55 mph!

6- When they lay eggs, it is almost always just two. (Singletons are rare, as are bigger clutches.) Incubation takes just two weeks.

7- Males and females work together to feed their new babies something called “crop milk” or “pigeon milk” for the first few days of their life. Rich in protein and fat, it resembles cottage cheese, is secreted by the adults’ crop lining, and is regurgitated to the little ones. Weaning is fast, though—by the fourth day of life, the diet starts to segue to seeds, and by two weeks, the youngsters are nearly fledged.