Mourn­ing Dove

Ontario Gardener Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Sher­rie Ver­sluis

Doves have long been revered as a sym­bol of peace, but the his­tory of how the dove be­came so cher­ished has a few dif­fer­ent ori­gins. In the bib­li­cal story of Noah and the Ark, the dove was said to have re­turned to the Arc with a freshly plucked olive leaf sym­bol­iz­ing the end of the flood and proof of land. In early re­li­gious art, the dove was used to rep­re­sent the Holy Spirit and peace of the soul.

The most revered im­age is that of the dove car­ry­ing an olive branch. The im­age dates back cen­turies be­fore any re­li­gious con­nec­tions and is re­lated to an­cient Greece. Irene, the god­dess of peace was very fond of the olive tree. To the an­cient Greeks, the tree rep­re­sented abun­dance and pro­tected against evil spir­its. All of this com­bined in­spired Pi­casso to cre­ate a poster for world peace in 1949 where the im­age of the dove car­ry­ing the olive branch be­came the great sym­bol of peace, a sym­bol it still rep­re­sents today.

Beloved doves

Mourn­ing doves are a beloved bird to many who feed wild birds. It is a bird with many names. At one time it was for­mally known as the Carolina Tur­tle­dove, then the name was short­ened to just tur­tle­dove. The cur­rent name rep­re­sents their soft, haunt­ing call that can be de­scribed as a call of mourn­ing. As trea­sured as doves may be to the soft at heart, they are sur­pris­ingly the lead­ing game­bird in the U.S. Mourn­ing doves are one of the most abun­dant birds in North America which may come as a sur­prise after see­ing the fol­low­ing sta­tis­tics. Twenty to seventy mil­lion Mourn­ing doves are shot each year,

mainly for sport but also for meat. To think they could be abun­dant at all with that kind of an­nual demise is truly shock­ing but their es­ti­mated pop­u­la­tion in North America is 450 mil­lion. Their flight speed of 88 km per hour makes them a chal­lenge for hunters who con­sider them 'live skeets.'

Mourn­ing doves are about 12 inches in length with a light gray-brown colour­ing and black mot­tling on their wings. They have a pink­ish hue on the breast and a black cres­cent mark un­der the eye. The only dif­fer­ence be­tween the male and fe­male is that males have pur­plepink patches on the sides of the neck and a bluish-grey crown on the head. One of their most no­table traits is their ' whistling wings' — the sound heard as they take off in flight, due to the anatomy of their wings. The con­tour of their flight feath­ers cre­ates a high-pitched vi­bra­tion when the wings flut­ter rapidly. Other species of birds con­sider this sound as a warn­ing of nearby preda­tors.

Dur­ing courtship, the male per­forms grace­ful flight pat­terns. On the ground he will ap­proach a fe­male with his breast puffed out, bobbing his head, and mak­ing loud calls. The fe­male se­lects the nest­ing site and builds the nest her­self. The male as­sists by gath­er­ing nest­ing ma­te­rial and will stand on her back pre­sent­ing her with twigs, blades of grass, and conifer nee­dles. One of the Mourn­ing Doves most known skills, or rather their lack of, is the con­struc­tion of one of the scant­est, if not pa­thetic nests of all nest builders. The eggs bal­ance pre­car­i­ously on twigs, and many do not make it. Doves will have up to six broods per sea­son to make up for the high mor­tal­ity. Usu­ally, only two eggs are laid, but of­ten a fe­male will lay more eggs in the nest of another dove pair equalling about four eggs per clutch.


The male in­cu­bates from morn­ing to af­ter­noon, and the fe­male com­pletes the rest of the day and night. In­cu­ba­tion time is 14 days, and the young will fledge in about 15 days. Both par­ents pro­duce milk that is fed to the chicks for the first few days of life and grad­u­ally seed is in­tro­duced. After leav­ing the nest the young stay close to their father for an ad­di­tional two weeks be­ing fed by him while learn­ing to fend for them­selves.

To at­tract doves to your yard, of­fer white mil­let, black oil sun­flower, and their ab­so­lute favourite food, saf­flower. Seeds can be of­fered on a plat­form feeder or in a shal­low dish on the ground.

The mourn­ing dove is a beau­ti­ful bird to in­vite into any yard and of­fers a peace­ful, calm­ing presence.

Sher­rie Ver­sluis owns The Pre­ferred Perch, at 204-257-3724.

The mourn­ing dove, so called be­cause of their soft haunt­ing call.

They are known for their "whistling wings' when they are in flight.

The mourn­ing dove is one of the most abun­dant birds in North America.

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