About us: We own a wild bird feeding supply nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
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This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Dove chases and social displays

My husband and I have been wondering this question.. Why do mourning doves chase each other? For example, I can have a row of doves sitting on my fence, one goes down to feed and then another promptly follows and chases the other away with no intention of feeding. I believe it has to do with hierarchy but don't know for sure. ~ Noblesville, Indiana

That’s a great observation. Dove fights could have to do with establishing a pecking order. When nesting season is over at the beginning of fall, doves tend to gather together in loose flocks. The social structure is determined by a series of challenges between the birds. The bird that retreats the fewest times is considered dominant. The dominant bird has fewer challenges than the middle ranking birds throughout the winter and dominance is not related to whether the bird is male or female.   

At the end of winter the birds separate into male and female groups and dominance within the single sex groups is established. All the boys are attracted to the dominant female as they now mingle only at feeding sites. But the dominant male soon scoops up the dominate female and form a pair bond for the season. They are the first to pair, establish a territory and nest.

During courtships males perform a noisy flight display and then approach the female with a bow and a coo. Once she accepts the male they preen each other and stay very close. The male sometimes “drives” the female. He follows close behind and gives her a peck when she stops walking in areas where other males might be around.

Many chases or fights now are a result of an unmated male trying to gain the attention of a female. Males also chase pairs away from the territory that they’ve claimed for the season. It’s like the Jersey Shore reality show (dove version) right in your own backyard.

Source: Ecology and Management of the Mourning Dove by Thomas S. Baskett
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