5 Interesting Facts About Mourning Doves

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Mourning Doves are so common at backyard feeders that they are often overlooked, and sometimes even seen as pests. But these gentle-natured birds have quite a few unique traits hiding behind those soft coos and muted plumage. Read below to learn 5 interesting facts about Mourning Doves.

Mourning Doves feeding on safflower
1. They eat a lot.
This may not come as much of a shock to those who feed wild birds, we know they can pack away a tremendous amount of seed in one sitting - up to 20% of their body weight daily, to be exact. But where does it all go?! Doves are not bottomless pits, but they do have a special feature that allows them to store seed internally. This feature is called a crop. The crop is an expandable pouch in the esophagus that acts as a storage area for food before it enters the digestive tract. This is also where "crop milk" is made, which is what baby doves eat as nestlings. Because doves feed mainly on the ground, they are prime targets for predators. Packing the crop full of food and flying to a safe perching area allows doves to feed less often and digest their meals with less threat of predation.

2. They are surprisingly fast fliers. 
Though they are stocky in stature, Mourning Doves can certainly pick up speed and go when they need to. Mourning Doves have a falcon-like appearance when in flight, with their elongated tail feathers, and long pointed wings. These features are what allow them to fly quickly. When in a hurry, Mourning Doves are able to swiftly take off and fly at speeds up to 55 miles per hour (about 88 kilometers per hour)!

Mourning Dove drinking from heated bird bath

3. They have a unique way of drinking.
Most bird species lap water into their bill, and in order to swallow, must tilt their head backward relying on gravity to draw the water downward. Dove and pigeon species, however, have the ability to fully immerse their beaks and siphon water into their esophagus, much like us sucking water through a straw. Take a close look next time you notice a dove and another bird at your bird bath to see the difference in their drinking habits. In addition to this unique drinking method, Mourning Doves also have the ability to drink brackish sea water which allows them to survive in harsh desert climates, unlike humans who would become dehydrated from the salinity of the water.

4. They raise several small families per season. 
Mourning Doves have an expansive nesting period spanning from early spring all the way into fall, raising as many as 6 broods per season. But unlike many birds, Mourning Doves only lay two eggs per brood. The incubation period is very short, lasting only 14 days. Doves do not take a break from incubating, mom or dad will be sitting on the eggs at all times until they hatch. Like the short incubation time, the nestling period is also 14 days long. After just a month, a Mourning Dove couple has raised two young to fledgling-hood and start all over again with their next brood!

Mourning Dove pair showing affection

5. They aren't afraid of showing a little PDA.
If Mourning Doves had a love language you can bet it would be physical touch. During courtship, males woo females by performing several audible wing beats, smooth glides through the air, posturing of the wings & bowing, and finally cooing. Once a pair is established, they can often be seen preening one another, cuddling together on perches, and grasping each other's beaks as they bob in unison as pair-bond rituals. Mourning Doves are seasonally monogamous, often pairing with the same mate for several seasons.

Attract Mourning Doves to your yard by offering a variety of seed including safflower, black oil sunflower, sunflower chips, and millet. Provide fresh water year-round in the form of a bird bath (heated in the winter) to help support Mourning Doves and other birds that visit your backyard. 

Happy trails!
- Shayna

No comments:

Post a Comment