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How to Identify Birds: The Mourning Dove

The mourning dove nests in all 48 of the contiguous United States. Spot one using a few easy-to-follow rules.


  • Step 1: Observe the bird's size and shape Consider the bird's appearance through binoculars and compare it with the pictures in your field guide. Mourning doves have plump bodies and long pointed tails, short legs, small bills, and small heads.
  • Step 2: Observe the bird's coloring Consider the bird's coloring. Mourning doves are grayish-brown in color and have black spots on their wings and white tips with black borders on their tail feathers.
  • Step 3: Observe the bird's behavior Consider the bird's behavior. Mourning doves fly rapidly using strong wing beats and may take flight or land suddenly while stretching their tails behind them.
  • TIP: Mourning doves are usually seen in pairs in summer.
  • Step 4: Observe the bird's habitat Consider the bird's habitat. Mourning doves are fond of fields and bare ground where they forage for seeds, but may also be found sitting on overhead telephone wires.
  • TIP: Although some mourning doves winter in the northern parts of the U.S., most do not arrive until mid-spring.
  • Step 5: Observe the bird's call Consider the bird's call. The male mourning dove has a call that sounds like a drawn-out, mournful lament.
  • FACT: The mourning dove is the most frequently hunted bird in North America.

You Will Need

  • Binoculars
  • A field guide

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