Do Doves Mate for Life?

Sequoia Hughes/CC-BY-2.0

Mourning doves, also referred to as turtle doves, tend to mate for life. The birds are generally monogamous, with both parents working together to care for and incubate the young in their brood. Mourning doves are prolific breeders and raise up to six broods each year in warmer climates.

Closely related to the Socorro dove, the eared dove and the now-extinct passenger pigeon, mourning doves are light gray and brown, with male and females looking very similar. They are very strong fliers, reaching speeds of up to 55 miles per hour and are known for their distinctive, plaintive call, which is often mistaken as that of an owl.

Adult mourning doves eat seeds almost exclusively, although in rare circumstances they may eat snails or insects. They show preference to sweetgum seeds, pine nuts and the seeds of amaranth, corn, wheat, sesame and canary grass. Mourning dove parents feed their young crop milk.

The main predators of mourning doves are birds of prey such as hawks and falcons. During nesting periods, rat snakes, house cats, grackles and corvids prey on mourning bird eggs. Mourning doves are a top North American gamebird. It is estimated that more than 20 million are shot each year in the United States.