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.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Doves mate for life, what happens when one dies

I have a pair of Mourning Doves that built a nest on our covered patio (on top of a heater). Both male and female built the nest one sat on the nest and the other was usually close by. Yesterday morning I was sitting on the couch and heard a big thud against the window on the covered patio. I looked outside and saw a hawk with something in it's claws and then it flew away. There were feathers all over the patio. Is it possible the hawk flew in and grabbed the dove that was sitting on the nest? About 15 minutes later the other dove was on the nest trying to fix it and sat on the nest the rest of the afternoon. The hawk made it's appearance a few more times sitting on the fence and flying around. I scared it off when I noticed it hanging around. The dove was not on the nest when I went to bed or woke up, but it was back around 7:30am and it still there now. Will this one dove be able to take care of the eggs? I assume the nest has eggs, why else would the dove be sitting on the nest? Or do you think the dove will eventually abandon the nest?

Curious and sad for the dove that was taken by the hawk, but I guess that is nature.


Mourning Doves take turns incubating eggs. The male does a day shift and the female does the night shift. Sometimes the surviving bird will attempt to incubate the eggs, at least for a time, to see if the mate will return. But this is a difficult task for a single bird and is often unsuccessful. Be prepared for nest abandonment if the remaining dove can’t find an unattached replacement mate quickly.

Since they nest several times a season it's possible the remaining bird will find another mate and raise many other successful broods in the same season. It's very sad to lose these birds in your yard, but the hawk may be nesting too. As I’ve said to many people, doves help feed several raptor and corvid babies as well as a variety of mammal species.

Fortunately, Mourning Doves can be found throughout most of North America and are considered among the top ten most abundant birds in the United States. Mourning doves may breed several times in a breeding season, from February to October. While the average longevity for a typical adult is only about 1.5 years, realistically the mortality rate of juveniles can be as high as 70% in their first year of life. But they can also be the longest lived bird found in North America. Bird banding research recorded one dove more than 31 years old. 

Related Articles:
Nesting platform for doves and robins
https://goo.gl/dmDoLf
Keeping the crows at bay https://goo.gl/65U6ea
Why is the Dove a Symbol of Peace? http://bit.ly/wMKEKF
How Do You Keep Doves From Dominating a Feeder? http://bit.ly/zDAwR2
Birds taught the military about camouflage http://bit.ly/zij0Lm
Birds freeze or fly at the approach of a predator http://bit.ly/wwJTpT

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