Creature Feature: Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)
By Emma Dean, CG Science Editor
Despite being one of the most heavily hunted animals in the United States with up to 70 million Mourning Doves shot annually for both sport and meat, this species continues to increase with an estimated 475 million individual birds. Considered a game bird in several states, the Mourning Dove has the widest distribution of any North American game bird. Banding studies have shown that Mourning Doves are generally monogamous and mate for life. However, a lone dove will take on another mate.
The male establishes the pair’s territory in early spring so that the couple can build a nest made from twigs up to 25 feet up in a tree or a bush. The two white eggs laid will be incubated by the male during the day and the female at night. In two weeks, the eggs will hatch to reveal two squabs. Although the squabs will fledge in another two weeks, the male and female will continue to care for their offspring until they are about 25 days old. A pair will raise three or more broods in a single breeding season—often up to six.
Indigenous to North and Central America, only those located in northern regions are migratory. However, some northern doves can survive a cold winter with the aid of backyard birdfeeders. Mourning Doves exist on a diet mostly of seeds with the occasional insect.
- The Mourning Dove is also known as the Western Turtle Dove, American Mourning Dove and Rain Dove.
- In 1838, French zoologist Charles L. Bonaparte gave the genus name Zenaida in honor of his wife Princess Zénaide Charlotte Julie Bonaparte.
- Mourning Doves have been clocked at flying up to 40-55 mph.
- Doves live up to 10 years in the wild and more than 17 years in captivity.
- Sometimes doves will lose toes from freezing despite strong leg muscles that allow their feet and legs to be somewhat freeze resistant.
- When laying the two eggs, one egg is laid in the evening and the second is laid the next morning.
- Mourning Doves are considered the most closely related to the Passenger Pigeon which has been extinct since the early 1900’s.