Mourning Dove
Zenaida macroura marginella

   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.

  • 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):

Subspecies (tentative position):” id=”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


   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.


    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


   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.


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.

Featured Image Credit: Bonnie Taylor Barry, Shutterstock