Mourning dove

Zenaida macroura

The mourning dove probably gets its name from its haunting "hoo, hoo, hoo" call. Found through all but far northeastern Minnesota on farms, roadsides, woodlands, and small towns, it is often seen on overhead wires.


General description: Mourning doves are blue-gray birds about the size of a robin. They have small heads, large breasts, and a pointed tail.

Size: Adult mourning doves are about 12 inches long.

Color: They are bluish gray with a lighter, brownish breast, and a black spot near the eye. Males have iridescent feathers on their neck. When they fly you might notice that the tail has a white tip.

Sounds: Mourning doves make a soft cooing sound that some people confuse with the hooting of an owl.


Mourning doves pair in the spring. After the male chooses a nesting site, the pair spends three to four days building a nest from twigs and sometimes grass. It might be on the ground or up to 20 feet up in a tree. The female lays two white eggs, which both parents incubate. After the eggs hatch about two weeks later, both parents care for the young until they leave the nest at 11 to 15 days of age. A pair may raise two families in a single summer. Mourning doves mate for life - about seven to 10 years. But if a mate is killed, they will find a new mate.


Mourning doves eat seeds, fruit, and insects. They also eat grain from farmers' fields.


Raccoons, cats, falcons and other birds of prey. Snakes sometimes eat eggs and nestlings.

Mourning Dove

Habitat and range

Mourning doves are common along country roads, and are also found in towns and open forests. In winter mourning doves migrate south; however, some can be seen year round in southern Minnesota.

Population and management

Doves are one of the most common birds in the United States, and dove hunting is legal in Minnesota during the dove hunting season each year.

Fun facts

Have you ever heard of a bird giving milk? Mourning doves have a special structure in their throats in which they make food for their young. Called "pigeon milk" or "crop milk," the food looks and smells like cheese. It has some of the nutrients found in cow's milk.

Range Map

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