Mourning Dove

Mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura) are found in all counties of the Texas Panhandle, in every month of the year, and are an important migratory upland game bird. Resident populations occur year-round in our area. Cold fronts often move doves from the central United States southward into the Texas Panhandle and temporarily increase populations during late August, September, and early October; however, periods of wet weather often force doves southward out of the Texas Panhandle. A segment of the mourning dove population migrates south during the winter into south Texas, Mexico, and Central America.

Mourning Doves are our most slender dove, with a long pointed tail, and fairly narrow pointed wings held close while flapping; however, on takeoff they produce a light airy whistling on takeoff. Song of a Mourning Dove is a mournful hooting ooAAh cooo cooo coo, often mistake for an owl. Identification tips are:



Similar species

Mourning Dove are highly mobile species. They are capable of moving considerable distances to sources of free water. During late summer and early fall, large concentrations of mourning doves may be attracted to agricultural fields to feed on waste grain or patches of native annual sunflowers and other forbs. Excessive and prolonged hunting may result in movements of local populations of birds to other nearby fields. Cultivation of agricultural fields during August in preparation for planting of fall cereal grains often reduces food availability and increased movement of mourning doves to other areas. Large scale clearing of trees and brush may also reduce nesting habitat for resident mourning doves.

Population Trends
Annual mourning dove call surveys are conducted each May by Wildlife Biologists in District II to determine long-term population trends.

Nesting begins in March and ends in September. Mourning Doves nest in in a wide variety of trees and shrubs, or on the ground. Nests are constructed of twigs placed on branches of a tree or shrub or tree, at the base of yuccas, clumps of cactus, or directly on the ground. A nest once constructed is often used repeatedly. Mourning Doves tend to construct loose and flimsy nests. High winds and rainstorms often destroy many of them. To provide secure nesting sites, wire cone nesting structures can be placed where tree limbs fork 6 to 15 ft above the ground. This practice is most useful in regions were high winds and large open areas are common. Two or more clutches of 2 eggs each are produced annually. Length of Incubation ranges from 13 to 14 days, time to fledge ranges from 12 to 14 days, and number of broods per year ranges from 2 to 3, but occasionally from 3 to 6. Young are fed "pigeon milk" and later seeds. Pigeon milk comes from fatty cells shed from the epithelial tissues in the female's crop. Typical pigeon milk contains about 74% water, 12% protein, 10% fat, 2% other nitrogen compounds, 2% ash, and no carbohydrates.

Mourning Doves feed almost exclusively on seeds from a wide variety of native forbs and grasses. Annual sunflowers, croton, ragweed, annual grasses, and waste grains such as wheat, milo, and oats are common food items.

Mourning Doves prefer tall shrubs and trees for nesting and loafing.

Mourning Dove require water daily. Prefer shorelines and banks without vegetation. Where water is limited or absent, development of water sources is desirable, catchment ponds, guzzlers, windmills, spring developments.

Management Recommendations

Exotic Species: The Great Eurasian Collared Dove Invasion
As noted by TPW Wildlife Biologist Jim Lionberger, area residents and birdwatchers have recently observed a new bird in their neighborhood. This new bird is a dove, considerably larger than a mourning dove, slightly larger than a white-winged dove. It is pale gray all over with a black collar around the back and sides of the neck, dark primaries, a collar with a white upper border, and a tail that is long and square. The bird is the Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) and its range appears to be spreading rapidly. This exotic species is primarily native to the Indian subcontinent, but began expanding their range into Europe in the early 1900's.

The first Eurasian Collared Doves in the Americas were brought to Nassau in the Bahamas from the Netherlands in the early 1970's a replacement for Ringed Turtle Doves (S. risoria). As always happens some escaped captivity in 1974 and quickly spread throughout most of the Islands. From there, doves immigrated from Florida in the late 1970's or early 1980's. The ensuing population explosion and expansion westward brought Eurasian Collared Doves Texas in the mid-1990's. At first, the expansion went unnoticed, due to the Collared Dove's similarity to the Ringed Turtle Dove. Today, however, the Eurasian Collared Dove occurs in several states within the U.S. as far North as Wisconsin and extends into Canada. This dove can even be found above the Arctic Circle.

In Texas, the Eurasian Collared dove has been documented in 134 of the 254 Counties in the State, including Dallam, Deaf Smith, Hansford, Oldham, Parmer, Potter, Randall, Sherman, and Swisher counties. Currently, regulations concerning the Eurasian Collared dove are the same as for feral pigeons or Rock Doves. A hunting license is required, but there is no closed season or bag limit; however, local restrictions concerning discharge of a firearm do apply.

Hunting seasons and daily bag limits are set by TPW Commission and under authority of US Fish and Wildlife Service to provide hunting opportunity in the Northern Zone located in the Texas Panhandle. The North Zone lies north of Intestate Highway 20. Daily bag limit is 15 mourning, white-winged, and white-tipped (white-fronted) doves in aggregate, to include not more than two whitetips. Possession limit is twice the daily bag limit. Refer to Texas Parks and Wildlife Outdoor Annual (2002 - 2003) for information on hunting zones, seasons, and bag limits. Public dove hunting opportunities also are available in the Texas Panhandle on lands leased from private landowners under the Public Hunting Lands Program of TPW ($48 annual hunting permit) and at the Matador Wildlife Management Area and the Gene Howe Wildlife Management Area. Refer to the Texas Parks & Wildlife

Seyffert, K.D. 2001. Birds of the Texas panhandle: there status, distribution, and history. Texas A&M University Press, College Station, TX. 501pp.

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