Mourning Doves are building their nest

It is spring and the male mourning dove labors hard to set up his territory.   When this male bird is ready to mate, he circles in a courtship flight and chases other doves from the area he desires to nest.

To attract a female mourning dove, this determined handsome bird perches in an open area and sings a “passionate” coo sound that is louder than his usual call.

difference of male and female doves
Male Mourning Dove

The Coooo bird call is mostly voiced by the male mourning dove and not the female. Once he has charmed a mate, the doves pair for life.

To hear the dove’s coooOOO sound, click on the short YouTube video below:

Doves mate primarily from spring to fall but are able to mate year round and produce several clutches of young.  These love birds are tranquil and elegant. 
doves birds mate
Mourning Doves seem to be the true love birds
  **Unfortunately, the Mourning Dove Nest can hardly be called a “nest” – generally these beautiful birds just throw a few twigs somewhere and begin setting up their flimsy nest.
tan bird with spots
dove nest on our porch

The nest is constructed over the course of 2-4 days with the male and female mourning doves working together.

bird nest with 2 eggs
mourning dove nest with 2 white eggs

With a hanging basket on our porch, it didn’t take long before a couple of mourning doves took up residence.  AKA Turtle Doves have been known to reuse the same nest over and over. Commonly raising 2 – 3 broods per season.  Researchers found that the basics for constructing the bird nest are mainly instinctive, but birds can improve their skills with experience.

flimsy bird nest with twigs and white eggs
when do the 2 dove eggs hatch?

So, you spotted a dove’s nest with two milky white eggs.  When will the dove eggs hatch?  The incubation period for Mourning Dove eggs is 14-15 days. Then another 2 weeks for the squabs to leave the nest.

One white egg is laid in the evening, and the female dove lays the second egg in the morning.

dove bird nest two eggs
Mourning Dove’s Nest with 2 white eggs

The day shift is handled by the male dove and the female incubate during the night shift.  If you do not see the doves change shifts, it can seem that the same dove has been on the nest the entire time. 

***In our experience, we have seen the male and female doves change places around sunrise and sunset.

The dove chick, “hatchling”, squab pictured below is one day old.  Both eyes on the newborn bird are closed.

one day old baby bird
a newborn baby dove is called a squab
two baby birds in a nest
2 to 3 day old dove newborn

Males and female doves work together to feed their newborns crop milk or “pigeon milk” for the first few days of their life. The dove’s Crop Milk is rich in fat and protein.  Adult mourning doves secrete the milk and regurgitate it to their little ones.

The dove parent opens its mouth wide permitting the nestling to stick its head inside to feed on the nutritious food.

mourning dove in the nest
The Male dove daddy caring for his squab

How do you tell if the male or female dove is in the nest?

With a trained eye you will be able to tell the difference.  Male Mourning Doves have a bluish crown and nape, and a rose wash to the throat and breast.  The crown and nape of the female dove is grayish brown, and the throat and breast has a brown or tan wash.

dove nest with 3 birds
female mourning dove with her squabs
Mourning Dove Nestlings will fledge in about 12-14 days. The bird parents continue to care for the dove fledglings for about another 16-20 days.

**Please NOTE:   Doves are more flighty than other birds and may abandon the eggs or nest if you bother them too much.

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My best Mourning Dove photos so far…

Over the past 6 months I have watched mourning doves survive in our unforgiving desert environment.  Following the quails, mourning doves have begun to mimic their behavior.

Mourning Dove Arizona Gambel's Quail desert
Mourning Dove with Gambel’s Quail

I’ve witnessed mourning doves out fly and out maneuver various hawks.  Always learning, mourning doves are honor roll students of the Sonoran Desert.

Tucson Phoenix birds Mourning Dove
Mourning Dove in Arizona
Tucson mourning dove birds Turtle Dove
mourning doves in a palo verde tree
larger male dove bluish eye bird
male mourning dove, Turtle Dove

Male mourning doves are bigger than females but their color is very similar.  The difference between male and female mourning doves:

  • Males have a bluish-gray crown; along with a rose color on the breast.
  • Male mourning doves can have an iridescent patch on the neck area.
  • Females have a grayish brown crown and a brownish tan breast area.
Arizona birds Turtle Doves
Mourning Dove in Arizona Desert
dove birds drinking water
mourning dove after a rain storm

Mourning doves successfully live in arid areas because they have no problem traveling several miles for water.  Their diet consists of mostly dry seeds; therefore, they must have water daily.  Mourning doves drink faster than other birds which helps them avoid predators who stay by available water.

dove squabs male and female dove
baby mourning doves 8 – 10 days old in nest

Baby mourning doves, SQUABS,  have a white patch under the eye which you can see in the photo above.

doves in Tucson Phoenix birds blue eyes
mourning dove photos
doves eating with full crop
mourning dove with his crop

Mourning doves eat enough to fill their crops and then find a comfortable location to digest.  What is a crop?  A crop is part of the digestive tract that acts as a storage bag to hold food until it can be processed by the body.

When a mourning dove feeds in the open it must be careful of predators; therefore, it will gobble up seeds as fast as it can.  The food fills up in the bird’s crop and the mourning dove hurries to safety for digestion.

dove birds in Tucson Phoenix
mourning dove getting ready to preen itself

What is preening?  When a bird grooms its feathers it is called preening.

This short video below shows a male and female mourning dove preening each other.  It is a lovely dove behavior to witness.

doves with white marks brown color birds
young morning dove squabs juvenile

Young mourning doves are darker than adults and have a white patch under the eye.  A mourning dove will reach maturity in approximately 3 months.  Mortality rate for young mourning doves is high.  On average the life span of a mourning dove is 1-3 years which is mostly due to disease and starvation.  Currently we have 70 or so mourning doves we feed daily.

Mourning Dove eggs are hatching, dove eggs incubation period, feeding baby doves – Part 1

How long does it take for dove eggs to hatch?  The incubation period for dove eggs is 14-15 days.  Then another 2 weeks for the baby dove chicks to leave the nest.

The dove chicks, hatchlings, squabs pictured below are one day old, both eyes are closed.

baby dove chicks hatched eggs
baby dove squabs in nest, closed eyes

I’m a proud Auntie!  We have been very quiet so as – NOT to startle the mourning dove away from her nest.  Last time these mourning doves made their nest I was too involved and sadly scared them away leaving the eggs in the nest abandoned.  I felt horrible.

baby morning dove nest
newborn doves 1 day old squabs, Turtle Doves
mourning dove hatchlings turtle dove nest
mourning dove hatchlings, opened eyes

The one day dove hatchlings opened their eyes.  The female dove left very early this morning so I was able to snap a couple quick photos before the male dove comes to take the day shift. This bird family will get their privacy and no disturbances from us, so the squabs will be taken care of by mom and dad dove.

squabs in bird nest
baby mourning dove nest

Why do doves abandon their nest? Nest abandonment is very common with Mourning Doves.  If a dove feels any threat from predators whether human or animal, the dove may go elsewhere, abandoning both eggs and babies.

Below is a short video showing how to feed a baby mourning dove that was rescued.  I educated myself and am prepared just in case I have to feed or care for these hatchlings.

If you find an abandoned bird it is best to take it to a wildlife sanctuary. Baby birds can be hand-fed and raised until they can be released back to the wild.

The mourning dove’s nest in the photo is in our Arizona garden.

Mourning Dove Eggs – How long for dove eggs to hatch?

mourning dove nest
Mourning Dove eggs!

How long does it take for mourning dove eggs to hatch?  The dove eggs will be incubated for 14-15 days, by both the male and the female doves. It takes about the same time for the young doves to leave the nest. The young doves are fed regurgitated pigeon milk by both parents, and they grow and develop rapidly.

tiny baby birds in nest
dove eggs hatched, baby doves

Mourning Dove breeding season is April – July although some may breed as late as October.  Even in southern Arizona, nesting is essentially over by mid-August, and some of the early-hatched Dove juveniles have already migrated by late July.

birds in Arizona
Mourning Doves, Turtle Doves

By the first week of September, the migration of most nesting populations is usually underway, the juvenile birds typically leaving before the adults.

turtle dove nest with eggs
Turtle Dove, Mourning Dove with two eggs in her nest

Beginning as early as March, these birds build a loose nest of twigs, grass, weeds and pine needles. The male dove carries twigs to the female dove who then weaves a flimsy nest of grass stems and twigs to lay her eggs.

mourning dove baby in nest
baby doves are called squabs

Mourning Doves, commonly called Turtle Doves, are one of the most adaptable, widespread North American birds. It is also the leading gamebird for sport and meat. Doves are strong fliers and can reach speeds of 55 mph (88 km/h).

Mourning doves occur from the lowest elevations along the Colorado River upward through forests of ponderosa pines to 8,500 feet. Their staple foods throughout the year are primarily small seeds and cultivated grains.  In the Sonoran Desert the woeful call of breeding males can be heard as early as February, and pairs have been known to attempt as many as seven nestings in a single season.

baby doves left in the nest
mourning dove squabs 11 days old

When visiting Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Arizona you will frequently see the White-winged Doves pictured below. The Whitewinged dove eats the fruits of the giant Saguaro Cactus.

dove on a saguaro cactus

Although still ranked as one of Arizona’s two most important game birds, dove hunting has since fallen off due to urban expansion, changing farm practices, and more restrictive season arrangements.

male mourning dove nest
male mourning dove in the nest

Arizona Game and Fish Department, http://www.azgfd.gov/h_f/hunt-info/dove/dove.shtml – When it comes to the early dove season, the hot action will typically be near agricultural areas with grain type crops growing or recently cut. While Arizona is well known for its cotton, the state also produces corn, sorghum, melons, barley, and even wheat – all great dove attractants.  Dove hunting is a very popular tradition, and Arizona has more than 30,000 participate each year.