Mourning Dove

Zenaida macroura
A Mourning Dove specimen on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

A medium-sized (12 inches) dove, the Mourning Dove is most easily identified by its grayish-tan body, speckled back, black “ear” patch behind the eye, and long pointed tail. This species may be distinguished from the similar White-winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica) by that species’ blue eye-stripes, rounded tail, and white wing patches. Male and female Mourning Doves are similar to one another in all seasons. The Mourning Dove breeds across much of the North American continent south of southern Canada. Northerly-breeding populations migrate south to southern Mexico and Central America during the winter, whereas populations breeding further south in the U.S. and Mexico are non-migratory. Other non-migratory populations exist in the West Indies and at scattered locations in Central America. Mourning Doves inhabit a number of habitats across this species’ wide range, including woodland edges, bushy fields, meadows, and scrubland. This species has also adapted to living near humans, and visits agricultural fields as well as urban and suburban areas where food is available. Mourning Doves almost exclusively eat seeds and grains. Throughout the North American continent, Mourning Doves may be seen foraging for food on the ground or perched on trees limbs, fence posts, and power lines. This species’ call, a melancholy “COO-coo, coo, coo,” and the whistle made by the wings of these birds as they fly, are an integral part of the avian soundscape across most of North America. This is also one of the most common backyard birds, known for regularly visiting bird feeders and building its nest on porch lights and inside hanging plants. Mourning Doves are primarily active during the day.

DC Information

Abundant summer resident and fairly common winter resident, found throughout the area. Breeds from early in April to early in September. Sexes are similar.

Specimen Information

In the exhibit, the male (above) is on the left.
Date:  4/14/1875
Collected By:  Dr Rothrock
Locality:  Arlington, VA
Sex:  Male
Catalog ID:  202692
The female in on the right in the exhibit (not in this image) is likely represented by this record.
Date:  1/17/1886
Collected By:  CW Richmond
Locality:  Alexandria Co, VA
Sex:  Female
Catalog ID:  121451

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Zenaida macroura

Zenaida macroura

Sound from xeno-canto. XC16936 Zenaida macroura (Mourning Dove)