Mourning Dove

Scientific Name: Zenaida macroura

Pictures: (click for larger images)

A mourning dove roosting in the north area of the UCLA Mildred A. Mathias Botanical Garden. Feb 2005.
A mourning dove roosting on a feeder near Hilgard & Le Conte. May 2004.
Mourning dove at a feeder with some friends.  Notice the blooming jacaranda in the background!

A pair of mourning doves on a stop sign near Sunset Canyon Recreation Center.  April 2005.
A large, deetailed image of a Mourning Dove in the UCLA Botanical Garden.  9/4/05
A pair of mourning doves taking a bath in Stone Canyon Creek!  5/26/06
Mourning Dove Illustration.

-Photos by Jason Finley
-Illustration by Robert C. Stebbins from "Birds of the Campus" (1947) by Dr. Loye Miller.

Description: Medium.12" in length (beak to tail), smaller than a pigeon.  A creamy light tan-brown color with round black eyes and a thin beak.  They also have a few black spots on their wings.  They have long tails that come to a point.  In flight, you can see the white trim on their tail feathers.  The males have a light pink iridescent circle on each side of their necks.

Sound: If you hear something that sounds like an owl to you, but it's during the day, it's probably a mourning dove.  They make a "hooOOoo-hoo-hoo" or "cooOOoo-coo-coo" sound. Their wings also make a sort of fluttering whistle sound when they take off.  Listen to a Mourning Dove singing!  Link is to the sound page for this bird from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's All About Birds.

Commonality/Seasonality: Common year-round.

Location: Nowhere specific.  Just start looking and you'll see them.

Notes: They're name comes from the mournful sound they make.  These gentle birds are often seen in pairs, as they are very monogamous.  I've seen them feeding alongside pigeons, house sparrows, and house finches.  It seems like they prefer foraging on the ground.  Also keep an eye out for the Spotted Dove, which looks like a Mourning Dove but has a dark area on the back of its neck with white spots on it.  I've yet to see one, but they are supposedly present throughout L.A.

Mourning doves are hunted in some states in the U.S. and protected as song birds in others.  Unfortunately, California is one of the states that allows dove hunting:

Doves are hunted along with many other familiar birds, including the American Crow, and our state bird, the California Valley Quail. In 2003, California Assemblyman Joe Nation (D-San Rafael) introduced a bill, AB1190, which would have banned dove hunting.  Unfortunately, it was withdrawn due to lack of support.  A brief web search indicated that hunting advocates lobbied against the bill. The arguments of gun and hunting supporters seem to be: there are plenty of doves so it should be okay to kill them, and that banning dove hunting would have an economic impact on the state.  There are several arguments against dove hunting: Dove hunting serves no wildlife management purposes; There is an unacceptably high wounding rate for dove hunting; Dove shooting is known to produce orphaned young; Dove shooting contributes to the discharge of toxic lead shot in the environment; and Dove shooting produces mistaken identity kills, including American kestrels, Sharp-shinned hawks and several other federally protected species. You can read more here:

The bill to ban dove hunting in California was supported by The Animal Protection Institute, the Humane Society and the Fund For Animals. We can also always contact our state representatives to express our concerns about dove hunting: find your California state legislators by zip code.

A few states have recently lifted decades-old bans on hunting mourning doves, including Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan.  Here's a site for efforts to restore the ban in Michigan:


The doves were here before us and seem not greatly disturbed by our coming.  On the lower ball field (January 30, 1944) Miss Dorothy Groner counted 370 birds feeding in two flocks.  Their spring song may be heard as early as February 21, but usually a bit later.  A nest was built beside the south door of PB one year.  [anyone know what "PB" might stand for?]

-Miller, Loye.  "Birds of the Campus, University of California, Los Angeles," from University of California Syllabus Series, No. 300.  Text by Loye Miller, illustrations by Robert C. Stebbins.  Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1947.




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