The mourning dove is a member of the family of birds called Columbidae. Male and female mourning doves look very similar with pale buff-brown head, neck, breast, and belly. Purple and green iridescence on neck. Small black mark on lower neck. Medium brown back and upperwings, with large black spots on coverts. Long tail is pointed at tip. Dark brown tail with white tips to outer four tail feathers, which show during flight. Juveniles can be distinguished from adults by light buffing on the tips of the primary feathers which persist until the first molt. Dark brown mottled head neck and breast. Scaly neck and upperwings with numerous black spots on coverts and scapulars. Pale belly. Medium length tail is pointed at tip. Young are indistinguishable from adults by the age of 3 months. Length: 10.5 inches. Long pointed tail is distinctive for adults, while black spotting on coverts and pale color help distinguish it from White-winged and White-tipped Doves. Juvenile is easily confused with Common Ground Dove and Inca Dove, but is longer necked, shows a pointed tail with more white at edges and lacks cinnamon in primaries. Juvenile Mourning Doves are also scaly and tend to be more extensively scaly. Inca Dove is longer-tailed, scaly on the belly and back and lacks spotting on coverts. Rare Ruddy Ground-Dove lacks scaliness and has black underwing coverts.
Common Ground Dove
Scientific name - Columbina passerina. Length: 5.5 inches. Color - Black-tipped orange bill. Gray-brown back and upperwings. Breast and head scaly. Black spotting on wing coverts. Cinnamon inner webs of primaries visible in flight, and occasionally at rest. Cinnamon wing linings. Short tail is slightly rounded at tip. Tail is brown centrally, with black edges and white corners. Juvenile similar to adult female. Adult male: Pinkish-buff head, neck and breast. Pinkish unscaled belly. Blue hindneck and nape. Adult female: Pale gray head, neck, nape, and breast. Gray unscaled belly. Common Ground doves can also be distinguished from Mourning doves by their flight, they tend to hug the ground even lower than the Mourning dove and flit about more like sparrows.
Mourning doves are very prolific birds. The nesting season runs from April to September; peak nesting is May through August. Each pair produces multiple broods each year. Mourning doves lay two white eggs per clutch and raise between two and five clutches per year. Both parents take part in incubation and brood-rearing activities. Young doves, or squabs, hatch featherless and grow rapidly, increasing their weight by 14 times within 15 days of age. Young can survive on their own 5 to 9 days after leaving the nest and most leave the nest area within 2 to 3 weeks of fledging. Doves build scant nests of twigs and grass usually placed in trees or shrubs 10 to 30 feet above ground. In open areas, coniferous shelterbelts and windbreaks are preferred for nesting.
Mourning doves are highly adaptable to a variety of habitats including coniferous forests, deciduous forests, residential, urban, and agricultural landscapes. Habitat needs include trees for nesting and roosting, a food source and a source of water.
Mourning doves are one of the most abundant and widely distributed birds in North America. The breeding range extends from central Canada in the north to southern Mexico in the south and encompasses all of the lower 48 states.
Ninety-nine percent of the mourning dove diet is comprised of weed seeds and grains. Preferred weed seeds include pigweed, foxtails, wild sunflower, and ragweed. Preferred grains include corn, sorghum and millet. Insects make up a very small proportion of the dove diet. Doves move an average of 2-8 miles for food.
Effects of hunting:
Continent-wide hunting mortality is estimated at 10-15% of the fall population annually. This mortality is believed to be below the level which would significantly decrease long-term dove abundance or hinder expansion of geographic area. Hunting is monitored and managed by professional wildlife biologists from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and state wildlife agencies.
The natural mortality rate for mourning doves is high; approximately 6 out of 10 birds do not survive from one year to the next. Research indicates that mourning dove mortality is caused by a variety of factors including predators, disease, accidents, hunting and weather extremes.