Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) - wiki
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[Photo] Mourning Dove, Cabin Lake Viewing Blinds, Deschutes National Forest, Near Fort Rock, Oregon. Date Early June 2006. Author www.naturespicsonline.com
The Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) is a member of the dove family Columbidae. The bird is also called the American Mourning Dove, and formerly was known as the Carolina Pigeon or Carolina Turtledove. It ranges from Central America to southern Canada, including offshore islands. Many individuals in northern areas migrate south to spend winter within the breeding range where January temperatures are above ???12° Celsius (10° F).
Habitats include various open and semi-open environments, including agricultural and urban areas. The species has adapted well to areas altered by humans. The bird is abundant, with an estimated population of 130 million birds. In many areas, the Mourning Dove is hunted as a game bird for both sport and its meat. Its plaintive woo-oo-oo-oo call is common throughout its range, as is the whistling of its wings as it takes flight. The species is a strong flier, capable of speeds up to 88 km/h (55 mph).
Mourning Doves are light grey and brown and generally muted in color. Males and females are similar in appearance. The species is generally monogamous, with two squabs (young) per brood. Both parents care for the young for a time. The species is a prolific breeder, and pairs will often have several broods per year. In warm areas, one pair may have up to six broods a year. Mourning Doves eat mainly seeds, including those of both native and introduced plants.
Taxonomy and distribution
The Mourning Dove has a large range of nearly 11 million square kilometers (6.8 million square miles). The species is resident throughout the Greater Antilles, most of Mexico, the Continental United States, extreme southern Canada and Eastern Canada . Much of southern Canada and the extreme northern central United States sees these birds in summer, and Central America sees them in winter. The species is a vagrant in northern Canada, Alaska, and South America. There are very rare occurrences of this species in western Europe, such as the one report from Great Britain. In 1963, the Mourning Dove was introduced to Hawaii. As of 1998 there is a small population in North Kona. Since the Socorro Dove was extirpated from that island, the Mourning Dove has started appearing there since at least 1988.
The Mourning Dove occupies most suitable habitats, including urban areas, farms, prairie, grassland, and lightly wooded areas. It avoids swamps and thick forest. It is known to nest in trees in cities, such as New York City, Chicago and Atlanta, as well as in the forests of the Appalachian Mountains and Rocky Mountains.
Most Mourning Doves migrate along flyways that are mainly over land. Spring migration north runs late March to May. Fall migration south runs from late August to November. Migration is usually during the day in flocks. Birds in Canada migrate the farthest, probably wintering in Mexico or further south. Those that spend the summer further south are more sedentary, with much shorter migrations. At the southern part of their range, Mourning Doves are present year-round.
The Mourning Dove is closely related to the Eared Dove (Zenaida auriculata) and the Socorro Dove (Zenaida graysoni). Some authorities describe them as forming a superspecies and these three birds are sometimes classified in the separate genus Zenaidura, but the current classification has them among the other species in the genus Zenaida. In addition, the Socorro Dove has at times been considered conspecific with the Mourning Dove, although several differences in behavior, call, and appearance justify separation as two different species. While the three species do form a subgroup of Zenaida, using a separate genus would interfere with the monophyly of Zenaida by making it paraphyletic.
There are five subspecies of Mourning Dove:
Eastern Z. m. carolinensis (Linnaeus, 1766)
Clarion Island Z. m. clarionensis (C.H.Townsend, 1890)
West Indian Z. m. macroura (Linnaeus, 1758)
Western Z. m. marginella (Woodhouse, 1852)
Panama Z. m. turturilla Wetmore, 1956
The ranges of most of the subspecies overlap a little, with three in the United States or Canada. The West Indian subspecies is found throughout the Greater Antilles. It has recently invaded the Florida Keys. The Eastern subspecies is found mainly in eastern North America, as well as Bermuda and the Bahamas. The Western subspecies is found in western North America and parts of Mexico. Most Canadian birds are also of the Western subspecies. The Panamanian subspecies is located in Central America. The Clarion Island subspecies is found only on Clarion Island, just off the Pacific coast of Mexico.
The Mourning Dove is sometimes called the American Mourning Dove to distinguish it from the distantly related African Mourning Dove (Streptopelia decipiens). It was also formerly known as the Carolina Turtledove or Carolina Pigeon. The species' scientific name was bestowed in 1838 by French zoologist Charles L. Bonaparte in honor of his wife, Princess Z??naide. The "mourning" part of its common name comes from its call.
The Mourning Dove is a medium-sized, slender dove approximately 31 cm (12 in) in length. The elliptical wings are broad, and the head is rounded. Its tail is long and tapered ("macroura" comes from the Greek words for "large" and "tail"). Mourning Doves have perching feet, with three toes forward and one reversed. The legs are short and reddish colored. The beak is short and darkish.
The plumage is generally light gray-brown and lighter and pinkish below. The wings have black spotting, and the outer tail feathers are white, contrasting with the black inners. Below the eye is a distinctive crescent-shaped area of dark feathers. The eyes are dark, with bluish skin surrounding them. The adult male has bright purple-pink patches on the neck sides, with light pink coloring reaching the breast. Females are similar in appearance, but with more gray coloring. Juvenile birds have a scaly appearance, and are generally darker.
This species' call is a distinctive, plaintive cooOOoo-coo-coo-coo. In flight, the wings make a fluttery whistling sound.
All five subspecies of the Mourning Dove look similar and are not easily distinguishable. The nominate subspecies possesses shorter wings, and is darker and more buff-colored than the "average" Mourning Dove. Z. m. carolinensis has longer wings and toes, a shorter beak, and is darker in color. The Western subspecies has longer wings, a longer beak, shorter toes, and is more muted and lighter in color. The Panama Mourning Dove has shorter wings and legs, a longer beak, and is grayer in color. The Clarion Island subspecies possesses larger feet, a larger beak, and is darker brown in color.
Courtship begins with a noisy flight by the male, followed by a graceful, circular glide with outstretched wings and head down. After landing, the male will approach the female with a puffed out breast, bobbing head, and loud calls. Mated pairs will often preen each other's feathers.
The male then leads the female to potential nest sites, and the female will choose one. The female dove builds the nest. The male will fly about, gather material, and bring it to her. The male will stand on the female's back and give it to the female, who then builds it into the nest. The nest is constructed of twigs, conifer needles, or grass blades, and is of very flimsy construction. These birds will sometimes requisition the unused nests of other Mourning Doves, other birds, or arboreal mammals like squirrels.
Most nests are in trees, both deciduous and coniferous. Sometimes, they can be found in shrubs, vines, or on artificial constructs like buildings, or hanging flower pots. When there is no suitable elevated object, Mourning Doves will nest on the ground.
The clutch size is almost always two eggs. Sometimes, however, a female will lay her eggs in the nest of another pair. The eggs are small and white. Both sexes incubate, the male from morning to afternoon, and the female at night and the rest of the day. Mourning Doves are devoted parents; nests are very rarely left unattended by the adults.
Incubation takes approximately two weeks. Mourning Doves are strongly altricial, with the young, called squabs, being helpless at hatching and covered with down. Both parents feed the squabs pigeon's milk (dove's milk) for the first few days of life. The crop milk is gradually augmented by seeds and adult foods. Fledging takes place in about 11???15 days, before the squabs are fully grown but after they are capable of digesting adult food. They will stay nearby to be fed for up to a few weeks after fledging.
Mourning Doves are prolific breeders. In warmer areas, these birds may raise up to six broods in a season. This fast breeding is essential for the survival of the species as mortality is high. Each year, mortality can reach 58% a year for adults and 69% for the young.
The Mourning Dove is monogamous and forms strong pair bonds. Pairs typically reconvene in the same area the following breeding season, or sometimes may remain together throughout the winter. However, lone doves will find new partners if necessary.
Ecology and behavior
Mourning Doves eat almost exclusively seeds, which make up more than 99% of their diet. Rarely, they will eat snails or insects. Mourning Doves generally eat enough to fill their crops and then fly away to digest while resting. They often swallow grit such as fine gravel or sand to assist with digestion. The species usually forages on the ground, including at bird feeders. At bird feeders, Mourning Doves are attracted to one of the largest ranges of seed types of any North American bird, with a preference for corn, millet, safflower, and sunflower seeds. Mourning Doves do not dig or scratch for seeds, instead eating what is readily visible. They will sometimes perch on plants and eat from there.
Mourning Doves show a preference for the seeds of certain species of plant over others. Foods taken in preference to others include pine nuts, sweetgum seeds, and the seeds of pokeberry, amaranth, canary grass, corn, sesame, and wheat. When their favorite foods are absent, Mourning Doves will eat the seeds of other plants, including buckwheat, rye, goosegrass and smartweed.
Mourning Doves can be afflicted with several different parasites and diseases, including tapeworms, nematodes, mites, and lice. The mouth-dwelling parasite Trichomonas gallinae is particularly severe. While a Mourning Dove will sometimes host it without symptoms, it will often cause yellowish growth in the mouth and esophagus that will eventually starve the host to death. Avian pox is a common, insect-vectored disease.
The primary predators of this species are diurnal birds of prey, such as falcons and hawks. During nesting, corvids, grackles, housecats, or rat snakes will prey on their eggs. Cowbirds rarely parasitize Mourning Dove nests. Mourning Doves reject slightly under a third of Cowbird eggs in such nests, and the Mourning Dove's vegetarian diet is unsuitable for cowbirds.
The number of individual Mourning Doves is estimated by Birdlife International to be approximately 130 million. The large population, as well as its vast range, are the reasons why the Mourning Dove is considered to be of least concern, meaning that the species is not at immediate risk. As a gamebird, the Mourning Dove is well-managed, with roughly 45 million shot by hunters each year. There is some evidence of a decline in western areas of its range.
The species does very well in areas altered by humans. As settlers and immigrants cleared the forests that once blanketed much of North America and started growing crops, new habitats for the Mourning Dove opened up. It is one of the most common birds in North America.
As a symbol and in the arts
The Eastern Mourning Dove (Z. m. carolinensis) is Wisconsin's official symbol of peace. However, it is, ironically, also legal to hunt the Mourning Dove in Wisconsin. The bird is also Michigan's state bird of peace.
The Mourning Dove appears as the Carolina Turtle-Dove on plate 286 of Audubon's Birds of America. A painting of the Mourning Dove is part of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service's Wildlife Portrait Series.
The Mourning Dove also features in the song Shelter from the Storm by Bob Dylan.
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