It's a baby (bird) factory!

We've had mourning doves nesting in our backyard evergreen trees all summer.

Mourning dove: You can see the messy nest and a chick's head peeking out. (Photo by Ken Kornack)
Mourning dove: You can see the messy nest and a chick's head peeking out. (Photo by Ken Kornack)

They're good parents--far more attentive than the human ones who share the space! They lay two eggs at a time, and almost never leave them alone. The male usually incubates from midmorning until late afternoon, and the female tends them the rest of the time. (Warning: gross fact ahead!) Mourning doves of both sexes feed their hatchlings something called "pigeon milk"--a substance that oozes from the lining of the parent's crop and contains more protein and fat than either human or cow's milk. Hatchlings eat nothing but pigeon milk until they're three days old; after that, they're gradually weaned onto a diet of seeds. The parents continue to feed the hatchlings until they're totally feathered out.

The crazy part is that mourning doves can produce five or six sets of chicks each year. (This may be one reason why mourning doves are among the ten most abundant birds in the US...) If things at the first nest are going well, the parents will build a second one nearby. One adult feeds the older chicks, while the other sits on the new eggs. It's a baby bird factory!

Right now, we have a couple of newly-fledged doves running around on the ground. I think the parents are still feeding them occasionally. And there's a new set of hungry hatchlings to feed, too. Makes me feel lazy for complaining about keeping up with my two little ones!

Listen to a mourning dove

More on mourning doves

Even more on mourning doves

Mourning doves are related to pigeons. Here's a great article on why you never see baby pigeons.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I found a baby mourning dove when I was with my dad at my Aunts house. The mom was trying to protect it by sitting on it, but when my dad and I tried getting a closer look it flew away and it didnt come back. Now we have it at our house and are feeding it a mixture of things we read that they ate but we just dont know what to do with it!!

posted on Thu, 08/23/2007 - 9:32am
Liza's picture
Liza says:

You don't say where you live.

Keeping baby birds, even baby mourning doves, alive is a big job.

If you live in the Twin Cities area, you might consider taking the hatchling to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota, in Roseville, where the staff is trained at healing and releasing all kinds of wild critters, baby mourning doves included.

You could also give the WRC a call, and ask them for instructions on how to create a "pigeon mix." (You might also be able to just buy some, since folks feed it to their homing and racing pigeons, too.) If the baby bird can eat on its own, a coarsely-chopped version of blend of seeds is a good diet. But it takes a bit (21 days or so) to get baby doves to eat on their own, and until you're confident that he/she is capable, you'll have to hand feed a few times a day.

Here are some instructions.

Here's a thread on a pigeon bulletin board that might help.

This is a tutorial on hand feeding. And a Q&A page on hand-feeding baby doves.

And this site, about rearing pigeons in London, provides some information about how to tell how old your little guy is, and when you should give up trying to do this yourself and take the hatchling to a rehabilitator.

posted on Thu, 08/23/2007 - 10:26am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Keep your penny some day it will be worth somrthing

posted on Thu, 08/23/2007 - 1:15pm
penny's picture
penny says:

I love birds!!! They are very pritty.I have one and it is a parrot!!! Her name is
Pegy. She can talk. I love her very much. I love all birds! Birds are very helpful. They eat bugs that are very anoing.

posted on Fri, 09/28/2007 - 6:58pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

they're awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

posted on Thu, 10/11/2007 - 11:33am
shadow1's picture
shadow1 says:

I love doves, I watch them nest, and I have a lot of growth from them pooping out seeds, eg. nettles, mulberries, and a few other bushes I am not sure of. I have also seen them attacked and eaten by crows! One winter I found the remains of a few feathers in the snow , some blood, no tracks, so I assume it was a hawk. Love the doves.

posted on Sat, 11/03/2007 - 9:01am
Sherry's picture
Sherry says:

From Houston, TX
I had some mourning doves come nest in a hanging basket out side of my window in the back yard recently - which I love! I believe the week after Easter is when the eggs hatched & I have watched with great interest [along with my indoor-only cats] as they have grown & been fed. Earlier this week [04-08-08] I saw the parents trying to entice the fully-feathered babies out of the nest, I returned home yesterday & all were gone. I keep the blinds on that section of window open 24-7 so I can check on them often. I'm worried something happened to them. I read above about fledglings running around on the ground & such, I expected a little longer transition I guess but I have never witnessed this process before. Also, I had lawn guys out yesterday who I instructed not to cut in the back yard this time because I had baby birds. They laughed [on the phone, I wasn't there] & didn't cut it but none the less all of the birds are gone now. Do they normally do all of this in just one day?

posted on Fri, 04/11/2008 - 7:34am
Dove Condo's picture
Dove Condo says:

Hi. I just returned home after being away over night. A dove created a nest in my window and two eggs were there on Wednesday -- now the Dove and the nest are empty. Do you think she may have taken the hatchlings to a bigger nest? I'm sad that I didn't get a chance to see their departure and concerned that they were perhaps harmed while i was away.

Thanks for the opportunity to connect.

Dove Condo

posted on Fri, 04/10/2009 - 10:31am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

We have been raising a baby mourning dove... It's getting close to time for it to fly away. We tried to build a bird feeder to attract doves to allow us to release him with a group of doves but a bear knocked down our feeder.
Will the dove survive on its own or does it have to be released with a group? Does it have enough instinct to do what it has to do ie. find food and more importantly water?
Any suggestions?

posted on Tue, 07/14/2009 - 8:19pm

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