Mourning Doves

This week’s blog was written by Jacob D., a Brookies alumni. He shares the interesting traits of mourning doves.

The mourning dove is Pennsylvania’s smallest and most common game bird. These birds are decorated with gray and brown feathers, black spots, and beautiful iridescent neck feathers. Their call sounds like someone is crying, giving them their name. Doves feed on the ground and they may frequent bird feeders if seed spills to the ground. Dove diets consist of almost entirely seeds, but if food is scarce they may eat insects and worms. Doves love to eat grass seeds such as yellow foxtail (pigeon grass), and the farmer’s crops like corn and oats.

Adult doves will mate for life and doves are often seen in pairs or groups of a dozen or more. They prefer areas where field and woods meet. Mourning doves may stay in one place or migrate to a place with more food. Most likely if there’s food, there will be doves. Mourning doves are often seen perched in large dead trees. There they watch for danger before landing on the ground to feed. Doves will roost in thick evergreens to spend the night.

A dove perched on a fence.

Though they are beautiful birds, like other plants and animals, they need to be managed. Too many doves in an area can use up all the food in the area. They can also destroy a farmer’s crop. Once the food is gone they can simply fly someplace else. This leaves other animals, that cannot so easily migrate, with little food.

Forests broken up by fields may hold doves.

Every year hunters harvest many doves. They are not easily taken though. A dove can fly at speeds up to 55 miles per hour. Their wings are so fast and powerful that they make a whistling noise as they take off. Their speed combined with their small size makes them difficult to hit. It is said that it takes the average shooter four shots to hit a single dove.

Mourning doves are beautiful little birds with some interesting qualities. Whether you enjoy hunting them or watching them at your bird feeder, it is likely you’ll encounter these birds within the next couple of days. They’re perched on telephone poles, fence posts, barn roofs, and many other places near you. I’ve enjoyed watching for and listening to these birds, and even though they are quite common, I hope that others may enjoy them too.

The photos used in this blog belong to the author.