Regardless of whether you live in the city, suburban neighborhood or in the country, chances are one of the patrons at your backyard bird diner is the mourning dove.

       When they fly in on whistling wings more often than not they are looking for black oil sunflower seeds, white millet, peanuts, cracked corn or mixed seed containing a variety of other seeds such as canary seed and rape. 

       If you have a pecan tree that drops pecans on your driveway, you have probably noticed that mourning doves are also fond of broken pieces of pecans created when car tires run over the nuts.

       If you are not offering any of these preferred foods, the birds will sometimes settle for a variety of other offerings such as scratch feed, popped corn, baked goods, and even milo (sorghum).

       In case you are unfamiliar with milo seeds, these are those round, reddish brown seeds most feeder birds ignore.  As a rule, the better seed mixes contain less milo than the bargain brands.

       Mourning doves relish both fairly large and tiny seeds.  For example, they will consume peanuts and kernels of corn as well as extremely small grass seeds.  One biologist took the time to count all of the grass seeds found in a mourning dove’s stomach.  When he completed this arduously task, he found the bird had consumed 17,200 seeds!

       Another important item in the mourning dove’s diet is grit.  Grit is nothing more than small pebbles, gravel, small chunks of concrete, and other hard objects.  The bird uses grit to grind up seeds it has eaten.  Biologists have found a mourning dove will swallow anywhere from 50 -100 bits of grit daily.  Often this grit is found along highways.

       Although mourning doves will feed at feeding tables and other above ground feeders, they much prefer to feed on the ground.  With that in mind, try to scatter only enough seeds that you feel will be eaten in a single day.  When too much seed is spread across the damp ground, you increase the chance that it will become moldy before the birds can eat all of it.




  1. I have had a lone mourning dove in my backyard around my feeders for several years. Sometimes, it is a third member of a three-bird family. It is chased off by the male of the family. What does this mean?

    • Victoria,

      Typically when you see 3 doves chasing one another, the group involves two males and a female. The third member of the group is a male seeking the companionship of the female. In such cases, her mate will attempt to ward off the intruder; the female will follow as the males try to sort it out.

  2. We have found an injured mourning dove which probably hit a window. We are caring for it in a very large dog crate which is outside on a screened in back porch. I have put branches into the crate, some from cedars with greenery to provide shade, and some bare for perching. This bird can’t fly anymore. We keep hoping it will improve but so far it only manages a quick flap of the wings, enough to get onto the lower perches. I have been feeding wild bird seed and there are lots of poops so I know that nutrition is happening. Reading your site, however, I see the need for grit – which I was already concerned about but unsure how to provide. I will dig up some soil from the gravel drive next to our home which certainly has bits of gravel grit from vehicle traffic crushing the stones. Any help you can give us is welcome! I will add peanuts and more black oil sunflower seeds also.

    • Elaine,

      I am far from an expert on the care of injured doves, however, a good site to check a vet website such as I hope this helps.


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