Mourning Dove

Zenaida macroura
Range Map

The bird has been called the Turtle Dove, American Mourning Dove and Rain Dove and in earlier times, the Carolina Pigeon or Carolina Turtledove. It is one of the most abundant and widespread of all North American birds. They are year-round residents in all the lower forty-eight states of the USA, and in Mexico, the Bahamas and the Caribbean Islands.

Mourning Doves will sit motionless, lazily perched for hours at a time. They can afford to spend time in this way because when they actively feed, they store large quantities of seeds in a crop in their neck. During their long and lazy perching sessions, they are actually digesting the food they consumed earlier in the day. These doves can drink salty and brackish water, giving them the ability to survive in arid locations where other creatures cannot.

Most taxonomists recognise five subspecies of Mourning Dove:

  • Z. m. marginella breeds in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba (Canada) south to Baja California (Mexico), through Oklahoma and Arkansas, and south-central Mexico. They spend winters south, as far as Panama.
  • Z. m. carolinensis lives in Wisconsin, Michigan and Ontario (Canada) to New York, Maine, the Canadian Maritime Provinces, and south to the Gulf coast of Florida, the Bahamas and Bermuda.
  • Z. m. macroura lives in Cuba, Isle of Pines, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico and Jamaica.
  • Z. m. clarionensis lives Isla Clarion in the Revillagigedo Archipelago (off western Mexico).
  • Z. m. turturilla lives in Costa Rica and Panama.

The mournful song of this bird gives it its name. As a youngster, I used to enjoy mimicking the song of the Mourning Dove by holding both my cupped palms together. Then by blowing through my thumb’s knuckles into the hollow between my palms I could produce a low-pitched whistle. I learned to alter the pitch by opening the cavity between my palms briefly to generate an elevated pitch. I was proficient enough to get a response from nearby singers.

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