03.20.16: Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove on a spring morning, Sharon Woods Metro Park, Westerville, Ohio. 


Technical information

May 6, 2012,
8:37 a.m.

40°6’59” N,
82°57'39" W
(Show in Google Maps)

Canon EOS 7D

Canon EF 600mm f/4L, Canon 1.4x teleconverter (840mm) 


1/1250th second


Mourning Doves are easy to photograph. They just aren’t very exciting to photograph. That’s why I don’t have many photos of Mourning Doves in my files.

But I see them all the time. Once they land they tend to stay in the same spot for a while. So it isn’t a challenge to get a photo. The Mourning Dove photos I have in my files were scenes that caught my attention because of the bird’s surroundings and not necessarily the bird itself.

That’s why I got this shot.

I was walking a trail through a field when I noticed this Mourning Dove perched on a branch. The spring morning sun was to the left, which provided nice lighting, and the bird was surrounded by some new leaves and dead leaves to provide a contrast in color. I knew the trees in the distant background would be reduced to a defocused green, drawing the viewer’s eye to the bird, and the angles of the branches and the bird’s head provided a sense of flow.

So I grabbed the photo.

While boring to photograph, Mourning Doves are interesting birds. Their shape is a bit odd, with a head that looks way too small for the body, but they are incredibly fast in flight which makes them a challenging target for hunters. More than 20 million Mourning Doves are killed by hunters every year. Even with those numbers, the Mourning Dove remains one of the most abundant birds in the United States with a population estimated at 350 million.

A Mourning Dove’s soft calls sound like lengthy, sad, cooing laments. When taking flight, the Mourning Dove's wings make a sharp whistling sound, similar to a piece of mechanical equipment that needs oil.

And Mourning Doves are always eating, which helps explain why they stay in one spot for so long. They tend to feed on the ground, swallowing seeds and storing them in their crop (an enlargement of the esophagus). Once the crop is filled, a Mourning Dove will fly to a safe perch to digest the meal. According to AllAboutBirds.org, the record is 17,200 bluegrass seeds in a single crop. The site says that Mourning Doves eat roughly 12 to 20 percent of their body weight per day, or 71 calories on average.

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.