Mourning Dove

Zenaida macroura

Abundant and widespread, the Mourning Dove is well known throughout most of North America. Its mournful call is heard from deserts to forest edges, from farmlands to inner cities.

Interesting Information

  • During nest-building, the female stays at the nest and the male collects sticks. He stands on her back to give her the nest material. She takes it and weaves it into the nest.

  • The Mourning Dove almost invariably lays two eggs. Clutches of three or four are the result of more than one female laying in the nest. A dove may have up to five or six clutches in a single year.

  • A Mourning Dove pair rarely leaves its eggs unattended. The male usually incubates from midmorning until late afternoon, and the female sits the rest of the day and night.

  • The Mourning Dove is the most widespread and abundant game bird in North America. Despite being hunted throughout most of its range, it remains among the 10 most abundant birds in the United States.


Adult Description

  • Size: 23-34 cm (9-13 in)

  • Wingspan: 37-45 cm (15-18 in)

  • Weight: 86-170 g (3.04-6.0 ounces)

  • Medium-sized bird.

  • Small head.

  • Long, pointed tail.

  • Light brown body.

  • Tail with white outer edges.

Back grayish brown. Underside buffy. Black spots on wings. Black comma-shaped spot below and behind eye. Tail graduated, with inner feathers longest. Tail gray, with white tips bordered by black on outermost feathers. Bill small and thin, black. Legs and feet dull red. Eyes dark brown, surrounded by blue skin. Wings make whistling noise in flight.

Sex Differences

Sexes similar, but males slightly larger and slightly more colorful, with bluish crown and pink chest.


Bluish gray cap and nape. Pinkish rosy hue over face, throat, and breast. Neck feathers tinged with pink iridescence. Outer three tail feathers with white.


Olive gray cap and nape. Face and throat olive brown. Breast tan. Neck feathers tinged with olive green iridescence; sometimes with pink. Outer one or two feathers with white.


Juvenile grayish brown with light scaly edges to feathers. Tail shorter and more square.


Photo taken from: The Sibley Field Guide by David Allen Sibley

© 2003 Cornell Lab of Ornithology


Breeds in variety of open habitats, including agricultural areas, open woods, deserts, forest edges, cities and suburbs.


Feeds mostly on ground, especially on relatively bare ground. Feeds in pairs or flocks.





Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
     Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Columbiformes
Family: Columbidae
    Subfamily: Columbinae
Genus: Zenaida
Species: Zenaida macroura
    Subspecies: Zenaida macroura carolinensis
  Zenaida macroura clarionensis
  Zenaida macroura macroura
  Zenaida macroura marginella
  Zenaida macroura turturilla

Similar Species

  • Rock Dove, or domestic pigeon, is larger and chunkier, with broad wings and a square tail, usually with a white rump, but no white in the tail.

  • Eurasian Collared-Dove is larger and heavier than the Mourning Dove, though still slender. It has a long square-tipped tail with white corners, but the white is not outlined in black. It has a distinct black line, or collar, across the back of its neck.

Bird Sound

Song a plaintive Òcoo-OOH, Ooo-Ooo-OooÓ. Wings whistle in flight.

Eggs look like this

Photo taken from: ARCTOS Collaborative Collection Management Solution