The Arboretum’s Resident Mourning Dove

The Arboretum’s Resident Mourning Dove

When Andrew Bunting was “hat racking” the large holly tree outside of the Arboretum offices early in the week of March 10, he came upon a nest with one white egg high up in the tree – easily visible from the second floor copier room window. The next day when he climbed the tree to resume his pruning there were two eggs in the nest so he put a few branches up to protect the nest from the worst of the sun and rain and we waited and watched. The mother dove – or maybe the father – appeared and took up her/his post in the nest.

I’d always thought of mourning doves as just pigeons without quite as bad a reputation but I was curious about why eggs were being laid this early in the year and investigated to find out more. They’re really quite interesting birds. Mourning doves breeding season is from February to October and they may breed several times in a season depending on food availability. Males select the nest site and construction takes at least 10 hours over a span of 3-4 days.

Mourning doves are monogamous and some pairs stay together through the winter. Both parents share incubating and feeding the young. Incubation lasts 14-15 days and the young leave the nest at about 15 days after hatching, but stay nearby till they’re more accomplished at flying – usually at about 30 days; males take over the feeding responsibilities during this period.

They have a number of known predators and are swift and maneuverable in flight so can escape most predators if they’re aware of their presence. As ruffed grouse do, an adult dove will try to lure predators away from the nest by pretending to be injured – the “broken-wing feign” – pretending they have a broken wing and fluttering away from their young.

Stay tuned – we’ll let you know when the chicks hatch and their progress as they “leave home.”

Jody Downer
  • T. Strohn
    Posted at 08:35h, 08 May Reply

    We just noticed a nest being built in the plum trees in our front yard yesterday. I searched and found that they are mourning doves, so I am curious to know the progress of the eggs you found. I don’t think we have eggs yet, they are still in the process of building the nest. I especially like to know if the babies are still there and how long its been since they hatched.

  • Jody Downer
    Posted at 09:38h, 09 May Reply

    When we first noticed the nest, there was one egg in it – the next day there were two – it took about two weeks before the eggs hatched. We saw two young birds in the nest and watched them for about two weeks as they grew. It was hard to see them till they got almost ready to fledge as the parents pretty well protected them from view. The babies were in the nest about 14-15 days and left the nest early one morning before we all got to work. There’s another posting on this blog about the babies leaving. We saw at least one of them on the ground later the same day they flew out of the nest but by now they’ll look just like adults, so it would be hard to tell if they’ve stuck around.

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