Like pleasing background music, the cooing of doves adds a soft note to spring and summer in the desert. I don’t see Mourning Doves around here in the wintertime, but couples recently began showing up in the back yard, and I’ve seen them in pairs in the desert. Out there they blend so well with the ground that their movement is startling, like a bit of the earth moving.
Doves build their flimsy nests just about any old place, not too concerned about the near presence of humans. We’ve had them nest on a ledge about 3 inches wide over the front door, on outside speaker boxes, and even on patio fan blades.
As Mourning Doves may have six broods per season, nesting continues well into the hottest part of the summer. On days when their eggs might cook in the heat, the couple takes turns sitting on the nest. They are able to absorb heat from the surface of the eggs and dissipate it by gular flutter or panting. The nestlings are fed regurgitated crop milk for a couple of weeks and dad continues to care for the juveniles while mom starts right in on incubating the next brood.
Widespread across the U.S. and Mexico, Mourning Doves live in open country, grasslands, agricultural fields, backyards and roadsides. Although they require plenty of water, they can survive in the desert because they are strong, fast fliers, capable of traveling ten miles a day to drink.
Mourning Doves eat seeds, grinding them up in their tough stomachs along with sand or gravel they consume to use as internal teeth. They are one of the most hunted bird species in North America.