Characteristics Of Doves

Characteristics Of Doves
••• Michael Stubblefield/iStock/Getty Images

Doves are small, stocky birds belonging to the pigeon family and are known for their low, soft cooing. Some, like the mourning dove are native to the United States, whereas others, such as the white-winged dove, were introduced by human settlers. Each species of dove has its own unique characteristics, but collectively they share several traits in regard to appearance, mating and feeding behavior.

Physical Appearance

Whether a common ground dove or an exotic Inca, all doves have relatively small heads in comparison to their bodies and small, narrow bills. They have short legs and walk as if their feet are tender which causes their heads to bob back and forth. These birds have fairly long tails with distinct color patterns that are useful in identifying the various species. A half dozen species of doves are common to North America; there are 35 recognized colors of the Ringneck Dove alone. Most common colors are shades of gray, white, brown and peach. Doves are known for their powerful, precise flight patterns and the whirling sound created by their wings; mourning doves can reach speeds up to 55 miles per hour.

Feeding and Habitat

Birds need water to survive and doves have the uncanny ability to drink water without raising their head. They feed primarily on grass and grain seeds, with the common ground dove taking in over 2,500 seeds per day to meet its high caloric demands. Doves forage for seed by walking and pecking at the ground, but most won’t move leaves or litter to find seeds. Some species also eat fruits, and white-winged doves even eat snails for calcium and small pebbles to grind plant material in their gizzards. Doves live in open woodlands, urban areas and some species take up residence in dense forests. They are regularly seen perched on power lines and in tree branches.

Raising a Family

Male and female doves work together to build loosely-made nests, usually in the spring, out of grass stems, twigs, moss and pine needles. Nests range in size from three eight inches across and are built on horizontal branches, man-made structures such as gutters or on the ground. Doves can produce multiple clutches in one breeding season, and will reuse nests to raise the young. They also use nests abandoned by other bird species. Mothers and fathers take turns incubating the eggs, a process that takes two to three weeks. When the young are born, their parents feed them crop milk, a secretion that both males and females form in their esophagus.

Migration

Some dove species migrate south during cold winter months. Mourning doves, residents of all of the United States except for Hawaii, migrate to southern states and even as far south as Mexico. The common ground dove only migrates a short distance southward, if at all, whereas the white-winged dove either stays put or migrates south, east or toward the west.

Related Articles

The Characteristics of Falcons
Which Birds Make Their Nests on the Ground?
Facts About Buzzards
Facts on the Adaptation of Doves for Kids
Great Blue Heron Mating Habits
Information on the Cardinal Bird
The Differences Between a Crow & a Grackle
What Are the Differences Between a Groundhog & a Prairie...
How Long Do Squirrels Nurse Their Young?
What Are Some Birds Found in Michigan?
Nesting Habits of Doves
Birds That Eat Pine Cone Seeds
How to Tell a Male From a Female Mocking Bird
How Do Peacocks Mate?
Facts About Silkworms
How Do Buzzards Nest?
Life Cycle of the Hummingbird
How Long Do American Bald Eagles Live?
Salamanders' Natural Habitat
Different Species of Cardinal Birds