Mourning Dove

Fascinating facts about doves that you may have never known about one of rural North America’s fastest flyers.

| September/October 2017

  • Throughout much of the country, the mourning dove is a classic electric-line sitter alongside rural roads. These fast flyers are, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the most frequently hunted species in North America.
    Photo by Dave Welling
  • Two mourning doves looking for food on the ground.
    Photo by Getty Images/PeteMuller
  • A mourning dove mother and her fledgling.
    Photo by Bryan E. Reynolds
  • Mourning dove are a beautfiul bird species.
    Photo by Janet Horton

Growing up in southeast Kansas, it was not uncommon to encounter the fast-flying, elusive dove. Nowadays, I often sit outside drinking my coffee in the morning and listen to the soft cooing sound that the mourning dove makes. Therapeutic in a way, though not surprising, since the dove symbolizes peace dating back to Biblical times.

In North America alone, there are over 15 types of doves. The mourning dove covers the largest range and is found in almost all regions of the continent. The other well-know dove is the Eurasian collared dove, which was introduced into North America but has become more and more widespread. The mourning dove is the far more common species in our part of the world.

Defining traits

The mourning dove is a medium-size bird with a delicate black bill, long pointed white-tipped tail, and rather soft, grayish-brown and buff coloration. There are black spots on the wings and near the ears. The tail and wing feathers are gray, except for the black-bordered white tips on the tail. The eyes of the mourning dove are brown, bordered by light blue bare skin, and the legs and feet are a dull red. The males are typically bigger than the females, and, as in most wild animals, have more color. The males have a pinkish wash on the breast and brighter blue-gray coloration on the top of the head and hind neck.

Mourning doves are a migratory bird just like ducks and geese, which means they live their life by the weather. When the weather gets cold, they migrate south for about six months. After that time has expired, they head back north thousands of miles to their breeding ground.

As bird hunters can attest, doves are extremely fast flyers, humming along in the air at speeds as high as 55 miles per hour.

Mourning doves are monogamous and form a very strong bond that will last at least for the duration of nesting season, some may even remain together throughout the winter.

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