What are You doing here?

mourning dove

Yet another rare sighting (for me) at the backyard bird feeder. I thought Mourning Doves migrated to warmer, more snow-free areas in the winter.  Look at those exposed toes — they look very susceptible to frostbite.

But on the coldest morning so far this winter, here were a pair of doves roosting in the Buckeye tree, and waiting their turns at the bird feeders.  They were not necessarily a mated pair, since they were a bit antagonistic to one another and maintained their distance rather than roosting together as a mated pair might.

mourning dove

They weren’t even really the same color — one had a much darker pink breast, but that could have been the lighting.

mourning dove sleeping

While they waited, they napped in the chilly, -10F air, puffed out into spheres to reduce their heat loss.

Mourning Doves are probably one of the most widely distributed birds in North America, present in every state including Hawaii (introduced there).  Typically, Canadian birds migrate south in the winter, but birds in the lower 48 states of the U.S. may be permanent residents, except places like Minnesota where temperatures dip to Canadian levels in the winter.

So what are these birds doing here, especially during the coldest two weeks of the winter so far?

I’m guessing this is a good example of birds sustained by bird feeders in the local vicinity.  In addition, the birds wintering far north might not be representative of the breeding populations at all.  The Northern Woodlands website suggests that juvenile and female doves are the individuals that migrate and males might remain permanent residents in the far north.  This gives them an edge on setting up a breeding territory in the spring — if they can find enough food to sustain them during the winter.

12 thoughts on “What are You doing here?

    • So true, and it seems to change with the light. They are a different color in bright light than in more subdued (or cloudy) conditions, which really shows up their pink-tan color.

  1. Huh, I had assumed that they just were year long residents as I’ve seen them the past 3 winters and hadn’t thought about it. I saw 19 Mourning Doves hanging out in a tree on Country Rd J(?) between Vadnais and Sucker lakes near the open stream connecting the two lakes. That was the 3rd of January this year.

    • Wow, that is a huge flock. The range map shows a transition from resident to migratory right about at the Twin Cities, so there could well be resident doves here all winter, but they don’t seem to like my backyard much.

  2. I always have a few that stick around for the winter, but nowhere near the numbers that I see the rest of the year. I just assumed they moved further south.

      • Really? Sleeping on the bird bath? That’s a great survival strategy! Great photos – I love how the eye-ring looks so blue. I’ve never seen that before.

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