Mourning doves primarily consume seeds, which make up over 90 percent of their diet. Their diet commonly includes the seeds from plants such as ragweed, sunflower, wheat, millet, corn and pokeweed. Occasionally, mourning doves eat insects and snails.
Mourning doves consume approximately 20 percent of their body weight in seeds everyday. Types they prefer include safflower, pine nuts, canola, sesame and amaranth. When the preferred seeds are not available, mourning doves may also consume seeds such as rye, buckwheat, smartweed and goosegrass.
The doves often forage on the ground. Instead of scratching and digging in the ground for seeds, they only eat what is visible. While foraging, mourning doves fill their crops – small sacs in the esophagus – as much as they can. Afterward, they fly away to perch and rest while the seeds are being digested. They often swallow finely ground rocks and sand to aid in digestion.
Monogamous pairs of mating doves feed their young crop milk for the first week of life. Crop milk is a nutritious milk-like substance that adult mourning doves produce in their crops and then regurgitate to feed their young.
Mourning doves are found all across the North American continent, from Canada to Central America. They prefer open areas, such as fields and residential areas, and are never found in dense forests.