About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Monday, October 11, 2010

How Do You Keep Doves From Dominating a Feeder?

We've been feeding wild birds ever since we saw a pair of finches bathing in a plant pot that got filled up with rain, probably in March or April. Now we're feeding a couple of dozen finches, 8 or 10 mourning doves, and several hummingbirds.

The biggest concern we have is that one of the doves consistently tries to monopolize the feeder, shooing away all the other birds for 20-30 minutes at a stretch. Other times, all the birds feed at the same time, and seem to get along quite well. We suspect that when this is happening, the aggressive dove is elsewhere.

Suggestions on how we can get the aggressive dove to back off?
Thanks, Rayni and Robert

Mourning Dove on thistle feederImage via WikipediaAh, so your "dove of peace" is being a bully at the feeder.

I'm fascinated by the doves. In the gotta eat, gotta fly, gotta go, go, go, world of birds, Mourning Doves move to the beat of their own drummer. They eat, drink, and digest S-L-O-W-L-Y.

The wing shoving is a good observation. Mourning Doves are docile, peaceful, tolerant birds and I often feel bad that they are the hawk's first choice for a quick meal. However, doves are large birds in the backyard bird scene and use that in their favor. By staking out a position and giving competitors a light push off the feeder, they are guaranteed a good meal.

I mentioned this shouldering technique in an earlier post on how to attract doves. An immature dove in my backyard was pushing his wing out to shove other birds and seed eaters away from his feeding area; only no one was around. He was protecting his pile of seed from imaginary, future competitors like persistent chipmunks or feisty birds. Your dove also may be young and not yet settled down.

Mourning Doves are not picky eaters so it doesn’t help to change what you are feeding. They eat a variety of seeds, insects, and berries. Honestly, I don't know a food doves don't like. They stuff their crop until it bulges and then fly off to digest slowly. They do require a large perching area to feed comfortably. So to deter a dove from your feeder, you need to remove the tray, if possible. A second option is to buy a feeder with smaller perches like a tube feeder.

I have several feeders (surprise, surprise) and if a dove is monopolizing one feeder the birds can try another feeder. Even with the dove staying on the one feeder for 20 minutes, your other birds won't starve. It's just one stop in the many they have throughout the day. If it were me, I'd enjoy watching the dove and get a second feeder that’s attractive to only the little birds.

Happy birdwatching,
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Craig said...

Good idea to have other feeders for other 'non-doves',but I have scared away as many as 12 doves at one time. My savior has been a red-headed woodpecker, that enjoys pecking the doves away.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a helpful post

Anonymous said...

I have two large feeders with sunflower seeds. The doves come in flocks of a dozen or more and scare off the rest of the birds. It doesn't matter that I have a second feeder. I even have a third tube feeder but no birds ever use it. It's like they don't even recognize it as a feeder full of milo grain.

Anonymous said...

Th mourning dove count has gone up considerably over the last year and they are keeping other birds from feeding at either feeder. I am planning on somehow reducing the perch ledge. The red bellied woodpecker and blue jays do keep them at bay but they don;t come often enough and I really don't want to just feed doves.

Marty B said...

I have about a dozen or more that come to mine....I have a large pole system from Wild Birds Unlimited with 6 feeders on it and they used to bully everyone away from all 6....I have since purchased a ground feeder tray and that solves most of the problems....the squirrels eat from it and so do the doves...every now and then some doves do still go to the feeders but the ground tray has reduced a lot of the problems, I know its not ideal to buy yet another feeder but I didn't mind the investment to keep the little guys still happy and able to eat

Anonymous said...

i have mourning doves that were born on my fire escape last march. i want them to continue living in their birthplace and have taken to putting out appropriate food for them, they are very kind and sweet. however, today i was horrified to find 6 giant pigeons fighting over eating the doves' food and there were no doves to be found. have they been scared away by the pigeons?

how do i feed the doves without having this giant flock of fighting pigeons congregating on my fire escape?

i am worried my neighbors will report me to the landlord now. suggestions please?