Mourning

Dove, that is, named for its plaintive call.  Actually it sounds more like romantic cooing to me.

Sitting in a tree just 20 feet away, I couldn't get the long tail in the photo with my telephoto lens.

Sitting in a tree just 20 feet away, I couldn’t get the entire length of the tail in the photo with my long lens.

We are located at the very northern tip of the Mourning Dove’s winter range and usually don’t see them here this time of year, especially if there is snow on the ground.  A small flock of about 6 birds has been visiting the bird feeders for the past few days, and perched in the tree right outside my porch window for several minutes.

The grayish ring around the eye can look almost blue during the breeding season.  Although the plumage looks monochromatic, in the right light, the male has patches of pinkish purple on its neck and pinkish breast feathers.

The grayish ring around the eye can look almost blue during the breeding season. Although the plumage looks monochromatic, in the right light, the male sports patches of pinkish purple on its neck and pinkish breast feathers.

As members of the pigeon family, Mourning Doves exhibit some unique characteristics not seen in songbirds.

They typically feed voraciously on the ground, consuming huge numbers of a variety of seeds, which are stored in a pouch of the esophagus (the crop) until they fly up to a protected roost and begin digesting them.  A record 17,200 bluegrass seeds was found in one bird’s crop according to the Cornell bird lab website.  The crop is a glandular organ that becomes secretory in the breeding season, and produces a rich milk that is regurgitated and fed to very young chicks before they can digest a seed diet.

After a big feast on bird seed, thirsty birds down water at the local pub.

After a big feast on bird seed, thirsty birds down gulps of water at the local pub.

Mourning Doves (and all pigeons) drink by submerging their head and bill almost up to eye level and using their throat muscles to pump water into the digestive tract.  This is quite unlike songbirds that “dip and tilt” their beaks to collect a mouthful of water and then passively let the water run down into their throats.

Mourning Doves are found in almost every habitat in North America. Because they are such strong flyers, they can survive in arid desert habitats by flying long distances to water holes, utilizing brackish water with high mineral content that humans could not drink.

The pinkish gray-tan plumage blends in well with their environment, making them inconspicuous until they fly off with a whir of the wings.

The pinkish gray-tan plumage blends in well with their environment, making them inconspicuous until they fly off with a whir of the wings.

8 thoughts on “Mourning

  1. I have a small flock that stay all winter in my suburban Chicago backyard. I’m sure the heated birdbath and endless supply of seed helps but I also see the occasional dove in the forest preserves. I’ve noticed a lot of their behavior is quite different from the other song birds. They often sleep in the hanging seed tray or on the rim of the birdbath. That just doesn’t seem prudent!

    • Not at all prudent! You must have a cat-free neighborhood, because a bird bath roost seems like easy pickings. Supposedly they do roost as a flock in conifers at night.

  2. I love your close-up shots of this beautiful bird, Sue. I usually see them in the trees–there seem to be some in my neighborhood and they seem to call a lot in the early morning and in the evening.

  3. I think they are beautiful. They are a more colourful relative of our collared dove. When I was a child, we always had collared doves in our garden, but I never see them now, sadly.

    • Doves, being ground feeders, like a source of seed under a little protection, like shrubs or bushes. But if there is food for them in your area, perhaps there are just too many outdoor cats preying on them?

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