More Than Just a Sad Song

Mourning Dove One of life’s simple pleasures, often missed in today’s world, is going to sleep with the windows open. To be gently awoke in the early morning by a chorus of bird songs is an experience that was common years ago, but one that has rapidly disappeared in our modern society.

As an early riser, the Mourning Dove’s plaintive cooing call is almost always a part of the dawn song heard just outside the window. While many of the other birds’ songs are cheery and bright, the Mourning Dove’s call sounds almost sad and lamenting. This "mournful" call is likely how the bird got its name.

Coincidentally, the Mourning Dove really doesn’t have much to be sad about.

Mourning Doves’ nests are woven together by the female with materials collected by the male. The male supervises the construction while standing on the back of the female as she works. The female Mourning Dove will incubate her eggs from late afternoon until midmorning, and then the male will come and take his turn during the heat of the day.

Both Mourning Dove parents must feed their young “crop milk,” a yogurt-like secretion produced by the walls of their crop. It takes both parents to provide enough food for the growing nestlings. If one parent is lost during the nestlings’ first seven days, the young will not be able to survive on the food produced by the lone remaining adult.

Mourning Doves may have up to six clutches per year with a typical clutch size of two eggs. This prolific number of nesting cycles is the largest of any North American bird. It is estimated that almost 500 million of these doves inhabit the continent each autumn, making it one of the 10 most abundant birds in the United States.

Their potential life-span provides Mourning Doves with another reason to cheer. While the average longevity for a typical adult is only about 1.5 years, the oldest known free-living Mourning Dove, as proven by bird banding research, was more than 31 years old. This is the longest life-span ever recorded for any terrestrial bird found in North America.

So maybe Mourning Doves aren't so sad after all; maybe their just trying to wake us up to fill the feeders.