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Mourning Dove Diet

1-28-15  mourning dove IMG_0746Seeds, including cultivated grains, grasses, weeds and berries, make up 99 percent of a Mourning Dove’s diet. Because they can find enough food to sustain themselves, Mourning Doves are permanent residents, remaining year round, even in northern New England.

These birds feed on the ground and in the open, consuming 12 to 20 percent of their body weight per day, or 71 calories on average. Mourning Doves swallow the seeds and store them in an enlargement of the esophagus called a crop. Once their crop is filled (the record is 17,200 bluegrass seeds in a single crop), they can then fly to a protected area where they can safely digest their food.

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12 responses

  1. Mary, this was fascinating! “Mourning Doves swallow the seeds and store them in an enlargement of the esophagus called a crop. Once their crop is filled (the record is 17,200 bluegrass seeds in a single crop)”. But HOW did anyone manage to count exactly how many bluegrass seeds that dove had ingested? Yet another eye-opener, mary! Thankyou!!
    cheers, Shiela

    January 28, 2015 at 8:23 am

  2. mmwm

    Why are some so pink on the chest and others brown or grey? Is that a function of diet?

    January 28, 2015 at 8:24 am

    • I think what you’re referring to has to do with their sex. Adult male mourning doves are slightly more colorful than females, with a pale rosy breast versus the female’s tannish breast.

      January 28, 2015 at 8:51 am

      • mmwm

        What I’m thinking of is that when I have posted pictures of the mourning doves we have here, people around the country write to me saying that they’ve never seen any as pink as these. That’s why I thought diet, perhaps regional differences in diet, might have something to do with it. But perhaps they have just not seen or noticed any male mourning doves. Thanks for your response, and thank you for these daily postings; they’re very helpful and often very timely.

        January 28, 2015 at 8:58 am

  3. What?! 17,200 seeds in one dove’s crop?! Another amazing fact to “digest”…
    Seeing this post made me remember that I don’t hear the mourning dove’s familiar call during the cold months, which made me wonder if that beautiful haunting call has a warm-weather-related function? And also whether they have a different call in winter that I’m not familiar with? (Aside from crows, this was the first bird’s call that my 2-year-old granddaughter could recognize and name.)

    January 28, 2015 at 9:22 am

    • Yes, their “cooing” is definitely a courtship “song” used by males to attract females!

      January 28, 2015 at 9:32 am

      • So is it only the males that sing that familiar and haunting call?
        And here’s another question: it seems like I hear it throughout the summer, not just in the spring (though often I realize that I haven’t paid as close attention to such details as I could have, when I stop and think about it) – but if this is true, is it because they mate more than once in a season?

        January 28, 2015 at 10:43 am

  4. Doreen Morse

    Do pigeons have this crop to digest their food too?

    January 28, 2015 at 9:43 am

    • Yes, definitely! Pigeons and doves not only store seeds in their crop, but the lining of their crop secretes something called “crop milk” or “pigeon milk” that they feed to their young!

      January 28, 2015 at 9:48 am

  5. Dellwvt – yes, it’s the males that sing the familiar song. Females have another, shorter song they sing on the nest. And yes, they have up to 6 broods further south, up to 3 in northern New England, and singing by males occurs throughout nesting period.

    January 28, 2015 at 2:02 pm

  6. How do they find seeds when there is snow on the ground?

    January 29, 2015 at 11:36 pm

    • I believe they take advantage of windswept agricultural fields, as well as feeders, and early successional areas where they feed on the seeds of various native herbaceous plants.

      (Birds of North America Online) ” Nonagricultural seeds used include variety of grasses (e.g., Poa, Paspalum, Setaria, Brachiara), spurges (e.g., crotons [Croton spp.]), goosefoots (e.g., lambsquarter [Chenopodium album] and saltbushes [Atriplex spp.]), composites (e.g., wild sunflowers [Helianthus spp.] and ragweeds [Ambrosia spp.]), pokeweed (Phytolacca americana), poppies (e.g., pricklypoppies [Argemone spp.]), amaranths (e.g., pigweeds [Amaranthus spp.]), smartweeds (Polygonum spp.), hemp (Cannabis sativa), purslanes (e.g., mustards [Brassica spp.]), and pines (Pinus spp.).”

      January 30, 2015 at 9:29 am

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