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Archive - September 2015

The mourning dove (Zenaida macroura) is a bird that is commonly seen throughout Illinois. It lives in cities as well as in rural areas.

This species averages about 12 inches in length from the tip of the beak to the tip of the tail. The bird has a small head and a plump body. It can fly quickly, but it sometimes lands awkwardly. Mourning doves are often seen walking on the ground beneath bird feeders or in places where waste grain is present. They nod or bob their head as they walk. Their bill is thin.

The male and female have the same color pattern. Gray-brown feathers cover most of the body with some darker spots at the base of the wings. The long, pointed tail has white edges.

The mourning dove is a common migrant and summer resident statewide. It is also a common winter resident. Spring migration into Illinois begins in late April. Many doves seen in Illinois in late summer are migrants from farther north. Illinois doves begin migrating in September and winter in Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Texas and Central America.

Nesting occurs from March through September. This bird nests in trees, especially evergreens, about 10 to 25 feet above the ground. The nest is a flimsy platform of sticks. Doves may place the nest over an old nest of another bird. Two white eggs are laid by the female. The male (during the day) and the female (at night) incubate the eggs for the 13- to 14-day incubation period. Several broods are raised each year.

The mourning dove may be found in open habitats including shrubs, hedgerows, clover fields, grasslands, orchards, marshes, urban areas and open woods. It makes a "coah, cooo, cooo, coo" sound. It eats seeds, waste grain, insects and fruit. 

Hunting Mourning Doves
The mourning dove is hunted in Illinois. It is a migratory species covered by federal regulations. Special hunts for youth ages 10-15 are held in Illinois each fall. You can learn the details about these hunts as well as all of the regulations regarding dove hunting in the latest edition of the Illinois Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations. Visit the dove hunting Web page for links to the information about dove hunting in the state.

Dove hunters are urged to check the legs of harvested doves for bands. Biologists in most Midwestern states, including Illinois, are placing metal leg bands on some doves to gain information regarding survival, migration routes and harvest rates, with the information used to develop new federal dove hunting regulations. Report band numbers to or call 1-800-327-2263. You will receive a Certificate of Appreciation with information about when and where the bird was banded, and your help will provide dove biologists with data useful in managing and protecting dove populations.

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