Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) 12 inches long

Mourning Dove at nest with chicks

Mourning Dove at nest with two young

Mourning Doves are pigeon-like birds that are from 10 to 12 inches long with a slender neck and a black bill. Their coloring is gray with black spots on their wings; their long, pointed tails carry white markings. There is no striking difference in coloration between male and female adults. Mourning Doves eat mostly seeds from grasses and weeds, supplementing their diet with some fruits, pine seeds, snails, and insects as available. These doves can often be seen on the ground along the sides of country roads where they gather seeds.

Dove nestling, USFWS photo by Tom Newman

Dove nestling, USFWS photo by Tom Newman

The female dove lays two white eggs that hatch in about two weeks. These doves are successful breeders that often raise several broods during a single season with each one consisting of two or three chicks. Mourning Doves feed their nestlings "pigeon milk," a nutritious food that is secreted in the bird's crop. This milk, which is provided by both parents, is fed to the chicks for their first three days and then is gradually replaced by seeds. The young doves are ready to leave the nest after about two weeks. The low, mournful coo-ing song which gives the birds their name is frequently heard in both rural and urban areas. Mourning Doves are abundant year-round in most of the rural areas of Cochise County. Our local population has recently been joined by a small contingent of Eurasian Collared Doves that came and fed with the Mourning Doves throughout the winter.

White-winged Doves (Zenaida asiatica), often slightly larger than Mourning Doves and bearing a distinctive white wing patch, can be seen in southeast Arizona during the summer. The bulk of the population winters in Mexico, although it may be expanding its range northward.