Mourning Dove

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The mourning dove (Zenaida macroura) is one of the most abundant bird species in urban and rural areas of North America. There are approximately 349 million doves in the United States and range-wide their numbers appear to be stable. In Louisiana, however, dove numbers have been increasing over both the short-term (last 10 years) and long-term (over the last 48 years) (Figure 1). To determine population trends of mourning doves, biologists conduct call count surveys. During call count surveys, trained biologists have listening stations spaced at 1-mile intervals along secondary roads. At each station, the number of individual doves heard calling and the number of doves seen are recorded. These numbers are then analyzed in order to determine dove population trends.  


Mourning doves are primarily granivorous ground feeders. They avoid tall vegetation and prefer relatively open areas for foraging. Some preferred food plants are: pigweeds, crotons, sunflower, panic grasses, foxtails, barnyard grass, and ragweed. Agricultural crops, particularly cereal grains, are important sources of food for doves. Preferred grains are: wheat, millets, sunflower, corn, sorghum, and rye.


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Mourning doves are monogamous (only one mate) and form pair bonds that persist through at least one nesting season. In Louisiana, mourning doves have a long breeding season and may nest at any during the year, but most nesting occurs from February – October. Peak reproduction is May – July.  Mourning doves are determinant layers and lay 2 eggs per nesting attempt. Eggs hatch after being incubated for 14 days and young leave the nest when 15 days old.  Adults may have 5-6 nesting attempts each year. 

Dove Hunting

There are at least seven species of doves in Louisiana, five of which may be legally hunted (). Hunting seasons are set by the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. To provide ample hunting opportunity for Louisiana residents, LDWF manages dove fields on state-owned WMAs and leases private lands from farmers for hunters to pursue doves.

LDWF offers free assistance to private landowners interested in managing their property for wildlife. Landowners interested in managing for mourning doves should contact LDWF's Private Land Management Assistance Program.

Managing Dove Fields

The objective of mourning dove field management is to attract large numbers of birds to shooting areas during the hunting season. Fields may be planted and the mature crop manipulated specifically for doves, or commercial agricultural fields may be managed to attract doves. For more information on dove field management, click here.

Fun Fact

Mourning doves, like other birds in the pigeon family, produce what’s known as crop milk. Crop milk, or pigeon milk as it is sometimes called, is a nutritious fluid fed to young. It is full of fat-laden cells sloughed off the epithelial lining of the parent’s crop. It is rich in protein (23%) and fat (10%). It also includes essential amino acids.

Literature Cited

Sauer, J. R., J. E. Hines, J. E. Fallon, K. L. Pardieck, D. J. Ziolkowski, Jr., and W. A. Link. 2012. The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966 - 2011. Version 07.03.2013 USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD