The Mourning Dove: Birds of the Pigeon Family

The mournful cry of the Mourning Dove can be heard in many areas of Ontario especially in the central region where this unique bird is most common.

When identifying a Mourning Dove there are distinct features which can be labelled. Their sleek body with grey-brown plumage is a first distinguishing feature. Ranging in size from 28 – 33 centimeters the Mourning Dove has a small head and a long tapering tail with white trim feathers. But, their most defining characteristics are the rosy underparts and breast, the dark shiny patch located just below the ear, and the black flecks which spot their upper-wings.

The range of the Mourning Dove is mainly around central Ontario and southern parts as this bird is absent in the northern areas. Also, large concentrations of these birds have developed in southeast and southwest Ontario. This is due to several factors: the abundance of open habitats, weed seeds, and waste grain can all be seen as pull factors for the Mourning Dove.

The general habitats of the Mourning Dove include: open woodlands, edges of forests, suburban areas and open parks. The nesting habit of a Mourning Dove is usually in the fork of a tree or shrub but can sometimes be found on the ground. The females build the nests which consist of a fragile platform of twigs, which are supplied by the male. Also, nests will contain two white eggs which are incubated for fourteen days by both the male and the female.

Most Mourning Doves are year-round residents in Ontario and throughout recent years feeders have provided a food source for an increased number of these birds. When watching for Mourning Doves the backyard feeder is a good place to keep an eye out. But, the best sites for spotting this birds are the suburban parks and any agricultural area.

One very distinct and interesting feature of the Mourning Dove, and as a matter of fact the whole pigeon family, is they feed milk to their young. The substance which is created can technically not be labelled milk because the birds lack the proper mammary glands to produce milk. But the substance which is created is a thick protein-rich liquid. A gland in these birds’ crop is responsible for the creation of this substance. This liquid is then fed to the chicks, and the young birds feed on the fluid by sticking their heads down the adult’s throat.