Article and photos by Charly Mann
There is no more gentle and pleasant bird than the Mourning Dove. They are a social bird that enjoys being close to humans as long as they are soft spoken and do not get too close.
Mourning Dove near Dewey, Oklahoma
Mourning Doves are about a foot long and have an 18 inch wingspan. They have small heads and their bodies are plump with short legs and beaks. They are light gray with tints of brown.They have black spots on their backs and pinkish-red feet and legs. Males have a bluish crown and nape.
Mourning Doves are truly love doves also. They are monogamous and pairs spend most of their time close to one another. As parents they both care for their young and both produce milk for their babies that is higher in protein and fat than cow or human milk.
A mother Mourning Dove on the left and her two young chicks
Adult Mourning Doves primarily eat seeds.
Doves have been used as symbols of peace, goodwill, and friendship for more than 3,000 years. It was also a dove with an olive branch that told Noah on the Ark that the flood has ended in the Bible.
I came across this Mourning Dove while walking through the woods during a snowstorm in northeast Oklahoma
The Morning Dove is also called the Western Turtle Dove and the American Mourning Dove, and was once known as the Carolina Pigeon.
I tied this string to a another tree to hold up a small Mimosa tree in my back yard. This Mourning Dove enjoyed perching on it almost every day.
In spite of the Mourning Dove's docile nature and association with peace and religious scripture, more than 70 million are shot annually in the United States for "sport". As a note of caution the most common bird in America in the 19th century was the now extinct Passenger Pigeon. Their migratory flocks were as large as two billion at a time, and it would often take several hours for them to pass overhead. Like the Mourning Dove they were killed by hunters in the tens of millions every year, and the last Passenger Pigeon, whose name was Martha, died on September, 1, 1914. Eerily, the Mourning Dove is the closest living relative of the Passenger Pigeon. (They are smaller and not as brightly colored as the Passenger Pigeon.)
Mourning Doves are capable of flying 55 miles an hour. They have strong feet and powerful leg muscles which allow them to quickly launch into the air.
There are many great places in Oklahoma to find a wide variety of birds. This was taken in an area where I regularly see ten or more different bird species.
The Mourning Dove's maximum lifespan is about 19 years.
There is no biological difference between doves and pigeons. Generally though, doves are considered smaller versions of pigeons.