Mourning Dove Eggs and Baby Mourning Doves

Baby mourning dove beside an egg

Like all pigeons, baby mourning doves are particularly fascinating. They don’t yet sport the beautiful brown plumage and striking characteristics of adult doves, but they still have a lot to offer.

For instance, when baby mourning doves hatch from their eggs, they look like little fluff balls. They also possess very short legs and beaks that are too small to peck at food.

In this article, everything you need to know about baby mourning doves and mourning dove eggs will be discussed in depth. You’ll learn how long they take to hatch, their dietary requirements, and other vital facts. Let’s begin!

What Do Mourning Dove Eggs Look Like?

Mourning dove eggs in a nest

The mourning dove’s eggs are generally similar in size, shape, and color to those of other species of pigeons. They are solid white, devoid of markings or spots, presenting a clean and basic appearance.

Furthermore, their shape is elliptical, similar to an elongated oval. Each egg also measures approximately 1 to 1.2 inches in length and 0.8 to 0.9 inches in width.

Meanwhile, if you were to weigh one, anticipate that it would be around 0.22 ounces.

How Many Eggs Do Mourning Doves Lay at Once?

During my time at a wildlife rehabilitation center, I had the privilege to observe a female mourning dove in its nesting period. Intriguingly, despite its frequent nesting habits, it laid only two eggs.

This limited number is mainly due to the fact that mourning doves don’t have enough calcium to produce more eggshells.

However, note that, throughout the year, these birds can produce up to six clutches. This means a pair will yield a maximum of 12 eggs, which is not bad compared to other doves and pigeons.

When Do Mourning Doves Lay Eggs?

Mourning dove laying eggs in the nest

Mourning doves reach sexual maturity relatively quickly, around 85 days old. So, once spring approaches, specifically in late February to early March, expect these birds to start their courtship rituals.

Note, though, that this type of pigeon forms monogamous pair bonds. In other words, once a couple has mated, they tend to stay together for life.

Returning to the topic at hand, the actual process of laying mourning dove eggs begins a bit later, typically from late April to early May.

This phase of creating baby doves continues until September, making the mourning dove’s mating season the longest of any American bird.

Where Do Mourning Doves Lay Their Eggs?

Mourning doves are often known for their relatively flimsy nests. Made from pine needles, twigs, and grass stems, these breeding grounds serve to keep them and their hatchlings warm.

When it comes to location, these birds are pretty versatile. They may choose the branch of a cottonwood, orchard tree, mesquite, evergreen, or even a vine to place their nest.

Interestingly enough, they may also choose urban settings, setting up roosts on gutters, eaves, ledges, or chimneys.

More specifically, these nests are situated 5 to 25 feet above the ground, ensuring a safe space for the soon-to-be baby birds.

How Long Does It Take for Mourning Dove Eggs to Hatch?

Mourning dove in its nest

Often, a mourning dove’s eggs are incubated for around 14 days before they hatch.

Yet, what’s special about these wild birds is their unique approach to incubation. In particular, both parents will take turns incubating their eggs, showcasing an impressive level of cooperation.

This ensures their mourning dove eggs receive consistent warmth and protection throughout the crucial 14-day period.

What Is a Baby Mourning Dove Called?

While a baby penguin is called a “chick,” and a baby swan is called a “cygnet,” a baby mourning dove is fondly referred to as a “squab.”

Yet, bear in mind that this term isn’t restricted to this type of bird; it’s also used to describe other newly hatched pigeons and doves.

What Does a Baby Mourning Dove Look Like?

Baby mourning dove up close

When a baby mourning dove first hatches, it sports ivory down feathers, with its eyes remaining closed. Its dark beak and skin stand out, and like other birds in the pigeon family, it’s initially unable to thermoregulate.

As they grow and approach the fledgling stage at around 10 to 14 days, mourning dove squabs will have developed their first true feathers. Their eyes will also begin opening at this phase.

By the time they reach the juvenile stage, these doves will be covered in their juvenile plumage. Yet, the most distinguishing feature is their adult feather sheaths, which appear like white scales from a distance.

However, while they already resemble their adult counterparts at this period, you’ll notice one thing: juvenile mourning doves still carry white-colored markings on their faces.

The video below shows a baby mourning dove — between its fledgling and juvenile stage — almost looking like a pine cone:

Baby mourning dove

How Big Is a Baby Mourning Dove?

At birth, baby mourning doves, often called hatchlings, are only a few centimeters long, generally measuring 3 to 4 inches. It’s merely a fraction of the size they’ll achieve as grown-ups.

Yet, as they mature, note that these little doves undergo significant growth. For one thing, they will eventually reach an adult size of 10 to 12 inches in length.

Moreover, these baby birds will boast a wingspan ranging from 17 to 19 inches, which will then allow them to take graceful flights.

How Much Do Baby Mourning Doves Weigh?

Baby mourning doves appearance

When a baby mourning dove first emerges, it’s incredibly light, weighing just between 0.13 and 0.17 ounces. Basically, this baby dove bird’s body is so tiny that it can fit in the palm of your hand.

As this little creature nears the time to leave the nest, it becomes a mourning dove fledgling. Its weight increases significantly, reaching 1.76 to 2.82 ounces — nearly half the size of an adult.

The journey doesn’t stop there, though. When the fledgling dove matures fully, it will eventually put on immense weight in a short period, which is roughly anywhere from 3.5 to 6 ounces.

How Long Do Baby Mourning Doves Stay in the Nest?

Baby mourning doves, once hatched, remain in the safety of their nest for approximately 10 to 15 days. Remember that they won’t leave their nest until they’re ready to fledge.

However, even after they’ve left, it has been observed that juvenile doves stay close to their parents for around a month.

This is because their parents will continue to feed them and protect them from predators until they are able to forage for their own meals, keep themselves warm, and fend off dangers.

What Do Baby Mourning Doves Eat?

Baby mourning dove beside its mother

For the initial days after hatching, baby mourning doves kickstart their digestive system with “crop milk.” It is a nutritious liquid rich in antioxidants, fat, and protein, secreted from the crop inside their parents’ throats.

Fascinatingly, these birds produce crop milk 2 to 3 days before the chicks even hatch.

As the days go by, the squabs’ dietary requirements will need to be adjusted, though. Fortunately, during this period, they are now able to digest some solid foods.

So, after several days of feeding milk to these newborns, the parents start to introduce seeds into their diet — fitting their primary nature as seed-eaters.

As these little doves continue to grow, insects like spiders are added to diversify their intake.

Apart from seeds and bugs, however, some parents feed baby doves fruits and veggies as well. These are often given in a partially digested and regurgitated form, making them easier for the young to consume.

Can Baby Mourning Doves Fly?

When baby mourning doves are born, they are not able to fly. These dove babies are classified as altricial, meaning they hatch in a relatively undeveloped state.

So, even though they come into the world with down feathers, they have yet to open their eyes, making their initial days vulnerable. Yet, as they continue to grow, their ability to take flight will eventually develop.

When Can Baby Mourning Doves Fly?

Baby mourning doves with their mother

By around 12 days to 2 weeks old, baby mourning doves are ready to fly. Yet, despite their newfound ability, note that they prefer to stay near the nest within a familiar and safe environment.

For instance, these young doves don’t stray too far in the first few outings, ensuring they can quickly return when danger is sensed.

In other words, while they can now fly off to join the flock of other doves, they’re still pretty reliant on their parents for food and protection.

This video shows baby mourning doves from the moment they hatch to when they finally learn how to fly, which is the most adorable thing you’ll see today:

Baby bird morning doves, from eggs, hatching, to empty nest

What Should You Do If You Find a Baby Mourning Dove?

Finding a baby mourning dove on its own can be a distressing situation. Here is a guide on what to do if you come across one:

  • Do not disturb them immediately: If you ever encounter a group of abandoned baby mourning doves, it’s best not to rush into action. It’s likely that their parents are merely in search of food and will return shortly. So, give them time and observe from a distance first.
  • If unfeathered, locate its nest: Generally, baby mourning doves, in the first days after hatching, might fall out from their nests. If you find an unfeathered baby dove, your priority should be to try and locate its original perch. Further, if you can safely place the young back in the nest, that’s ideal.
  • Provide temporary shelter: If you cannot find the nest or it’s inaccessible, providing the baby mourning dove with a makeshift nest becomes necessary. This can be as simple as a shallow box with soft materials inside. Remember, the goal is to keep them warm and shielded from potential predators.
  • Contact wildlife rehabilitators: If the parents don’t return after several hours, or if you believe the baby mourning dove is injured, it’s time to contact a wildlife rehabilitator. They’ll know how to care for the baby bird until it’s ready to be released back into the wild.

Even if it’s uncommon to see abandoned baby mourning doves on the ground, it does happen. However, it’s always crucial to approach the situation with care and patience.

Frequently Asked Questions

Baby mourning dove in a nest

Why Do Mourning Doves Leave Their Babies Unattended?

Mourning doves sometimes leave their babies unattended to find food, such as insects, fruits, or seeds, especially when they cannot make crop milk anymore.

Can You Move a Mourning Dove Nest With Babies in It?

No, you should not move a mourning dove nest with babies or eggs laid in it. It’s against the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) of 1918 to do so. Hence, contact a wildlife service if you need help relocating a bird nest.

What Happens If Dove Eggs Don’t Hatch?

If mourning dove eggs don’t hatch, it could be due to genetic defects, insufficient incubation, or infertility.

In such cases, the parents will begin incubating the next brood, moving forward in their natural cycle to ensure the continuation of their line.

Do you have any questions to ask or stories to tell about mourning dove eggs and baby mourning doves? Drop them in the comments!

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