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.