Courtship and Mourning Doves

Mourning Doves go through a set of steps when courting.The male will “coo” and then the female will “coo.” The male will then alight on the branch next to her. He then bows and “coos” and she reciprocates in the same manner. He then will offer her a drink – a drink of dove’s milk. Dove’s milk is a heavy liquid, made from seeds, and is carried in the gullet. The female must insert her head to drink it. The male then preens the female and she in turn preens him. Mating can then proceed. These actions are called CHAINING – a set of steps that must occur in proper sequence or mating will not occur. If the chain is broken, or any step eliminated, the whole sequence must start over. Doves are often called “Love Birds” because of their tendency to sit close together on a branch.

The male will establish his territory in early spring – thus preparing for courtship and nesting. Territories selected will be in open or semi-open habitats. If your yard fits this description, you may have this species around your home. The resulting nest looks like a “rickety” affair – just a few sticks that light can show through. The eggs sit precariously on the sticks. They are all white, and both parents will incubate them. These birds will lay eggs in other Mourning Dove nests. A community affair, you might say. If the nest is threatened, the parent will perform a distraction (Agonistic) display.

This 11 to 14 inch bird is named for its mournful sounding call. I have heard other people mistake the call for that of an owl.

Our large yard seems to fit their needs, and they are at our place for most of the year. Cassia County has large populations in its dry farm areas where brushy areas border the wheat fields in the gullies that are inaccessible to cultivation.

Mourning Dove

Mostly tan but subtly colored about the neck and head