About 12 inches (30 cm) long with large white spots on its
pointed tail (Peterson, 1990). The blackish bill is very thin and
delicate. The upperparts are a light dull grey with a slight buff
to blue-grey tinge at the nape and outer part of the wing. There
are black markings on the wing coverts and scapulars. The primary
wing feathers are dull black with narrow pale edgings to the
outer web. The upper part of the throat is whitish. The head is
neat, colored red-buff with short black facial streaks behind and
below the eye. There is also a slight buffy tinge to blue-grey on
the center of the crown. The sides of the neck feature a patch of
pink, purple-pink and/or bronze iridescence. The buff coloration
of the face yields to a deep vinous pink on the breast, becoming
buff on the lower breast, belly, and under tail coverts. The
flanks and underwing are blue-grey. The female is paler and
duller, with a slightly shorter tail than the male (Goodwin,
1983). Weak feet and legs do not allow this bird to effectively
scratch the ground or cling to upright stems or twigs (Leopold,
et al., 1981).
Prairie, desert, open woodland, agricultural lands, and urban
areas are the native habitat for this builder of flimsy platform
nests (Leopold, et al., 1981).
This species is found from southern Canada south to southern Baja
California, Sonora, Oaxaca, Puebla, northern Tamaulipas, Texas,
the Gulf Coast, and southern Florida. Also found in the Bahamas,
Greater Antilles, Costa Rica, Panama, and the western Mexican
islands (American Ornithologists' Union, 1983).
The Mourning Dove is a ground feeder that primarily consumes weed
seeds and waste agricultural grain that has fallen to the ground.
It must drink daily (Leopold, et al., 1981). Its favorite
agricultural grain is wheat. When necessary, snails and other
small invertebrates may be eaten. These doves normally forage in
pairs or loose knit groups (Goodwin, 1983). The doves and pigeons
are unique birds in that they do not have to raise their heads to
drink (Leahy, 1982).
Zenaida macroura is a communal rooster who tends to nest
in trees, shrubs, or old nests of other species. Occasionally the
ground or a building ledge will serve (Goodwin, 1983). Z.
macroura lays two white eggs. The first is laid in the
evening and the second is laid in the early morning 2 days later.
The incubation period is 14-15.5 days. The squabs fledge at 13-15
days. The nest is kept clean for the first week or so, since the
parents eat the castings (Goodwin, 1983). These monogamous
breeders maintain their pairings for the entire nesting season.
Since they nest several times during a season, both parents
incubate and care for the squabs. Doves and pigeons feed their
young with a "crop-milk" that is made of cellular material
sloughed from areas of specialized epithelial tissue in each lobe
of the crop. During the nestlings first 4 or 5 days, they are
feed "crop-milk" exclusively, and then it is mixed with gradually
increasing numbers of seeds (Leopold, et al., 1981).
The Mourning Dove is probably the most important game bird in
North America. It is fully compatible with man and his modern
environments. Its strong power of flight allows it to travel some
distance from its nest for food and water (Leopold, et al.,
1981). In flight this bird appears swift and darting, making a
characteristic whistling sound. It throws up its tail just after
landing, which also is an indicator of impending flight (Goodwin,
1983). When nearby, the sound of a hollow mournful
coah-cooo-cooo-coo identifies this species; from a
distance, only the cooo-cooo-coo is heard (Peterson,
American Ornithologists' Union. 1983. Check-list of North
American birds, 6th ed. Allen Press, Lawrence, 877 pp.
Goodwin, D. 1983. Pigeons and doves of the world, 3rd ed.
Comstock Publishing Associates, Ithaca, 363 pp.
Leahy, C. 1982. The birdwatcher's companion: an encyclopedic
handbook of North American birdlife. Hill and Wang, New York, 917
Leopold, A. S., R. J. Guti‚rrez, and M. T. Bronson. 1981. North
American game birds and mammals. Charles Scribner's Sons, New
York, 198 pp.
Peterson, R. T. 1990. A field guide to western birds. Houghton
Mifflin Company, Boston, 432 pp.
Mary Kirschenbaum, July 1996.