Vancouver Avian Research Centre

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Species: Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura


The Mourning Dove is among the most abundant and widespread terrestrial birds endemic to North and Middle America. This sleek, gray-brown dove shows white tips on outer tail feathers in flight and its long, pointed tail gives it a streamlined shape at long distance. It may commonly be seen picking food (seeds and fruit) from the ground, walking with mincing steps and bobbing its head. The mournful vocalization of this species is distinctively recognizable to people in spring and summer and has given rise to its common name.
Breeding populations of the two principal subspecies-the larger, grayish brown eastern ‘carolinensis’ and the slightly smaller, paler western ‘marginella’-occur in parts of southern Canada, all of the lower 48 states, and into temperate Mexico.


General: Streamlined, mid-sized dove (columbid) with small head and long graduated tail.

Total length, males: 26.t-34 cm; females 22.5-31 cm. 120 g. (males heavier) weight.

Adult Male: Colour grayish blue or grayish brown above, buffy below. Black spots on wing coverts and behind eye; pink wash below. Wing and tail feathers gray except for black-bordered white tips on tail. Delicate, black bill; dull red legs and feet. Eyes dark brown bordered by bluish skin.

Adult female: Slightly less colourful than male, with tannish breast versus pale rosy breast of male. Male head has bluish crown and nape, female brownish.

Juvenile Male: Immatures have buffy-tipped primary wing coverts. Heavy spotting; scaled effect on wings.

Similar Species: May be confused with several other species including White-winged Dove and Eurasian Collared-Dove. Distinguished from White-winged by lack of white patches in wing (prominent in flight) and long, pointed (not rounded) tail.

Behavior: In flight is capable of swift direct flights and rapid changes of pace and altitude. On the ground it walks or runs rather than hops. Uses open ground and avoids dense ground cover. This dove takes advantage of seasonally available food resources among a wide variety of habitats. Diet consists mostly of seeds from cultivated and wild plants.

Habitat: As a habitat generalist, the species has benefited from human changes to the North American landscape. Habitats vary widely in both rural and urban landscapes; open habitats are preferred and the species generally shuns only extensively forested areas and wetlands.


This species is valued by the general public in rural, suburban, and urban locales because it occurs widely, nests readily around yards and farmsteads, and is a frequent visitor to bird feeders.
The Mourning Dove is a partial migrant; most breeding populations in northerly latitudes are migratory, and individuals in southern latitudes are primarily resident. Reproductive strategy of the Mourning Dove is characterized by a determined clutch size of 2 and a protracted breeding season in which multiple nesting attempts can occur every 30 days. Birds in southern latitudes may nest during almost the entire year. As with other pigeons and doves, adults of both sexes share incubation duties, and both parents feed newly hatched young on “crop milk,” a unique secretion of the cells of the crop wall. The Mourning Dove is a short-lived species, with an average adult life span of about one year.
It is the leading gamebird in North America in terms of total harvest and the widespread distribution of hunting effort. Approximately one million hunters annually harvest more than 20 million birds, which exceeds the annual harvest of all other migratory game birds combined. (USFWS 2007)

Conservation Status:

Ranked eleventh among 251 species in relative abundance throughout its distribution, and population abundance in the U.S. has been estimated to be approximately 250 million.
Capture Rates

Although Mourning Doves can remain resident in the Lower Mainland, it is more likely that these northern birds migrate long distances to the southernmost part of their range as seen by zero capture rates (2010-2012; standardized as birds captured per 100 net hours) during the winter months. Seen in the park through the spring, summer and fall, capture rates of these birds prove that they are not readily captured.


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