Animal-World > Birds > Doves - Pigeons > Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove ~ Carolina Dove

American Mourning Dove
Carolina Pigeon, Carolina Turtledove

Family: Columbidae Mourning DoveZenaida macroura marginellaPhoto Courtesy Jamie Wertz - The Tweetery
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Last night we found a small mourning dove, she seems to have no balance, her wings seem fine and she will wrap her feet around our finger. Not sure of age, but she... (more)  Tina Cooke

   The Mourning Dove, also known as the Carolina Dove, is the most abundant dove in the United States!

   The Mourning Dove makes a great aviary pet. It is not normally handled as it is a bit flighty and high-strung. It will not take to a cage well but in an aviary it is very hardy and easy to breed. Generally docile, tolerant, and peaceful it can be kept with such birds as waxbills, larger finches, and canaries. Being a ground feeder it will pick up seeds dropped by the other birds.

What's in the name ?
"long-tailed." in Greek

   A fairly attractive bird, the Mourning Dove has a slender build and a long tail. The habitat of this little bird covers a good portion of Northern and Central America. Most of us are very familiar it. Not only is the Mourning Dove the most widely hunted and harvested game bird, but we will often see one in our backyard or in the city park. It is probably this familiarity that makes it less popular to keep than some of its more exotic cousins.

   While it is a game bird in some states, in other states it is protected as a songbird. Be sure to check your state and local restrictions before acquiring a Mourning Dove.

For more information about the care of Doves and Pigeons see:
Guide to a Happy, Healthy Doves & Pigeons.

Geographic Distribution
Zenaida macroura marginella
Data provided by
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Columbiformes
  • Family: Columbidae
  • Genus: Zenaida
  • Species: macroura marginella

Scientific Name: Zenaida macroura


  • Zenaida macroura macroura
  • Zenaida macroura marginella
  • Zenaida macroura carolinensis
  • Zenaida macroura turturilla

Subspecies (tentative position):" id="Subspecies (tentative position):">Subspecies (tentative position):

  • Zenaida macroura bella
  • Zenaida macroura carolensis
  • Zenaida macroura clarionensis
  • Zenaida macroura carolinensis>marginella
  • Zenaida macroura graysoni
  • Zenaida macroura marginella>carolinensis
  • Zenaida macroura x marginella

Distribution:    Mourning Doves are found from southern Canada down to western Panama and on some of the Caribbean Islands. There are six subspecies. They inhabit lightly wooded areas as well as parks and gardens in cities and towns.

Description:     The Mourning Dove is a slim bird with a small head and a long, pointed tail. Adults are about 12 inches (30 cm) in length and will weigh about 5 oz (140 g).
   It has a gray-brownish color overall with a more sandy buff colored abdomen. The crown, back of the neck, and the nape are slate and the face and breast have a pinkish cast. There is a rather purplish area to the sides of the neck and a small black spot. The outer tail feathers are tipped in white and they have a black marking midway up. There are also black spots on the wings. The legs are reddish and there is a bluish ring around the eye.
   The female has more brownish coloring overall and on the male, the purplish area on the neck is larger.

Care and feeding:   They are quite hardy. If they are kept outdoors and are accustomed to cold weather, they can take below freezing temperatures for a short period of time.
      A good finch or parakeet seed mix supplemented with greens rich in minerals, vitamins, and calcium is a fine diet. They not only enjoy their greens, but will also enjoy spray millet and such things as crumbled cornmeal and bread. Grit is essential as Mourning Doves swallow their food whole, and it helps grind up the food. Oyster shell or even cuttlebone can be added for calcium and is important for egg layers.
   See About Doves & Pigeons: Housing and About Doves & Pigeons: Care and Feeding for more information.

Social Behaviors:    Being very peaceful and tolerant, Mourning Doves can be kept with such birds as waxbills, larger finches, and canaries. They form permanent pairs and mates do well if kept together.
   See About Doves & Pigeons: Social Behaviors for more information on social behaviors of doves and pigeons.

      They need plenty of room as they get their exercise through short flights about the aviary

Breeding/Reproduction:    Mourning Doves are easy to breed but they are rather flimsy nest builders, so it is best to provide them with an open nesting container and some nesting materials. The female will lay two eggs which hatch after about 13 days. The young will fledge in about 16 or 17 days
   See About Doves & Pigeons: Breeding/Reproduction for more information on breeding.

Potential Problems:   These birds are hardy and healthy if provided with a good environment and a good diet. Avoid an environment that is wet, cool, and drafty.
   See About Doves & Pigeons: Potential Problems for information on health.

Availability: Though a game bird in some states, in other states it is protected as a songbird. Be sure to check your state and local restrictions before acquiring a Mourning Dove or collecting one from the wild.

Author: Clarice Brough, CAS
Lastest Animal Stories on Mourning Dove

Tina Cooke - 2014-04-03
Last night we found a small mourning dove, she seems to have no balance, her wings seem fine and she will wrap her feet around our finger. Not sure of age, but she does not seem to have tail feathers. Right now she is eating wild bird seed and will drink water, will she eat bananas? Or dried cranberries? That is all i have right now, will go to pet store and see about some grit and maybe a better feed for her. I also have some lettuce, would that be ok for her?   any help would be greatly appreciated!   thank you tina cooke, conway. Sc

  • Jasmine Brough Hinesley - 2014-04-12
    I don't think bananas are in their usual diet, but it probably won't hurt to try. Dried cranberries probably won't hurt either. Lettuce should be fine. Definitely get a good quality seed mix and grit. Good luck!
  • Connie - 2014-08-25
    I have a female mourning dove in my yard seems to be off balance as well did you find out what was wrong with the one you found? Connie ny
Anonymous - 2013-05-31
I found a mourning Dove about 5 days ago and it's wing was hurt i think it was shot by a bb gun. I brought him in my house a lil high strung and calm at the same time beautiful it is indeed. Sad to see people purposely hurting animals.

  • Clarice Brough - 2013-05-31
    So nice that you are able to help the little thing:)
Courtney Hennes - 2011-12-31
I have a morning dove that was found outside it was a baby hatched on my roof but it was a fledgling. I noticed but still picked it up I am 12 years old but know more about animals than most people and successfully raised the baby. And yes I tried to put it back but the mother flew away the baby now has all its spots flies and eats well but how do I tell its gender. Please help I want to breed it

  • Charlie Roche - 2011-12-31
    That is sure one of the most difficult to determine the sex. The only accurate way is through DNA sexing. You can send for a DNA sexing kit in an ad from the back of Bird Talk Magazine. I believe it is $25.00. You have to ckip a toenail a little too short or pull a feather. No, they don't really like it but it is fast and then you can hold it. Another choice is get 3 more and see who pairs. Then you know whether to get more boys or gals.... I am being funny but it's an idea.
Mary A Hanson - 2012-06-07
HELP the neighbors just brought me a baby mouring dove, the mother kept shoving it out of the nest and then took off with it's siblings and left this, one on the ground. What do I feed this baby? It has all it's feathers and tried to fly out of the box, we have too many feral cats to just leave fend for it's self. Where would I get mealworms, it's 8pm what can I do tonight?

  • Charlie Roche - 2012-06-07
    Don't get upset - it will be OK.  You can use a spoon and just give him a few drops of water.  Just sorta lay a couple of drops of water onto his tongue.  For tonight, you can feed him any kind of cereal - oatmeal, creme of rice etc with a spoon. Even mashed up soup. He is little and sure not going to eat more than a tablespoon full a couple of times.  You don't need worms. Just lay the slightly warm cereal (or food) on his tongue using a spoon.  If you have to open his beak with your hand to do this - that is OK.  He might sorta like a baby spit it back up till he figures out how to swallow but it will get you through the night.  He is not going to starve in one day.  Tomorrow you can get baby formula and bird see for doves - or use cockatiel mix.  You can feed him the baby formula and you can use baby food or mashed up sweet potatoes.  You can then look for a rehab facility or take it to Animal Control.  You can put him on a towel in the shower or bathroom for the evening. 
  • Mary A Hanson - 2012-06-07
    What kind of baby food, vegetables, fruits ,rice cereal?