Common Name

Scientific Name

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Photo Courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

Mourning dove, Zenaida macroura, males and females measure from 11 to 13 inches in length, including a five to six inch tail. Both sexes weigh four to five ounces. Both sexes are pale grayish-brown with a black spot on the head at the lower base of the ear patch. The pointed tail is bordered with white. The male has a rose colored metallic iridescence on the sides of the neck. This iridescence is usually lacking in females.

The mourning dove is the most widely distributed upland game bird in North America, nesting in 48 of the 50 states. About 50 million mourning doves are taken by hunters each year in the United States--more than any other game animal. About one quarter million are taken in Utah. It has adapted and responded to man-made habitat, preferring the open fields, abundant food supply, and forest edges created by modern agriculture.

The migratory mourning dove arrives in Utah in April. The male and female remain paired throughout the nesting season. The male assists in nest building, incubation, brooding and feeding of the young. Nests are flimsy structures, usually built low in trees or shrubs and sometimes on the ground. Nests may be established in either urban or rural areas. The average number of eggs laid and incubated is two, but they may successfully produce two to three broods each summer. The eggs are hatched in 14 days. The young grow rapidly, leaving the nest in 12 to 14 days, becoming independent of the parents at about three weeks of age.

Mourning doves are almost entirely seed eaters and almost any small seed may be eaten. Seeds compose over 90 percent of the mourning dove diet.

The mourning dove is a highly popular game bird. Since the dove is migratory, it falls under the migratory bird treaty and federal regulations. The United States is divided into three management units. Utah is the western management unit. Regulations for hunting are established by the Department of Interior following consultation and recommendations of the states within the management unit. Each state participates in gathering data for management decisions.


  • Text modified from: Rawley, E. V., W. J. Bailey, D. L. Mitchell, J. Roberson, and J. Leatham. 1996. Utah upland game. Publication number 63-12. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Salt Lake City.