How Long Do Mourning Doves Live? [Mortality Rate Info]

how long do mourning doves live

Mourning doves are common songbirds that can be found right around North America. Generally, they’re fawn-colored and have black spots on their wings. Their tails are quite long which distinguishes them from other dove species.

In general, a mourning dove lives for around 1.5 years. This depend entirely on its ability to adapt to its environment and to stay away from possible predators. In their first year of life, mourning doves have a mortality rate of around 75%. However, once they’ve passed their first year, their mortality rate drops down to around 60%. The birds that survive their first year can often live for up to 5 years.

Surprisingly, the oldest recorded mourning dove that lived in the wild was 30 years and 4 months old. This bird was a male and was unfortunately shot in Florida in 1998.

What Factors Can Affect The Lifespan Of A Mourning Dove

There are many factors that can affect how long a mourning dove lives. Most of these include predators, hunting, loss of habitat, climate change and diseases.

If a young mourning dove can survive its first year of life, then it has a chance to enjoy life for another 4 years or so and sometimes even longer.

Let’s discuss some of the factors that can shorten a mourning dove’s lifespan.


Mourning doves nest on the ground. This means that young chicks and nestlings are in danger from many predators such as foxes, raccoons, bobcats, skunks, dogs, cats and even snakes.

These doves are also often hunted by raptors such as crows, hawks, owls, eagles and falcons. This means that the doves have to be aware and alert and they commonly use camouflage to try and keep their nests hidden.

Doves are also ground feeders and this leaves them vulnerable to predators, especially domestic cats who are natural hunters by instinct. Even the scent of a cat may keep adult mourning doves away from their nests and this is one of the reasons that hatchlings will die because they’re not being cared for.

Rats and mice can also be a problem if they attack the young hatchlings. Not only that, but these rodents can also infest the nesting area with certain diseases that are fatal to doves.


Game hunting is still a popular sport in North America and mourning doves are not safe from the hunters. In fact, they are one of the more popular species that the hunters go after. These days, there are limits on the number of birds that a hunter can kill. These limits are set by park rangers and game wardens.

However, these limits aren’t always easy to police and it’s not only being shot down that can cause the death of a mourning dove. Because these birds are ground feeders, they’re often known to eat the lead pellets that are left behind in popular hunting areas.

Loss Of Habitat

The destruction of natural habitats to make way for urban developments and farmland means that the birds have to adapt to living in urban areas and around people. They are no longer able to nest in the thickets in forests that provide enough protection and camouflage to keep them safe.

Once the doves are forced to move into urban areas, they’re more susceptible to being attacked by predators, getting hit by cars or even flying into windows that can prove to be fatal for them.

Climate Change

The constantly changing climate also poses a problem for mourning doves that are common migratory birds. You see, their migration is often determined by the weather. Therefore, if the temperatures are still quite warm in the fall, they may delay their journey south. This means that they may not reach their destination before the freezing cold weather sets in and the birds may not be prepared for this.

Then, there’s also the problems associated with wildfires and heavy rainfalls that can drive these doves out of their protected areas and out into the open where they are easy prey for predators.


There are a number of common diseases that can easily kill these doves. If a dove contracts one of these diseases during its nesting period, then it can easily infect and kill all the young in the nest. This is another of the primary reasons that the mortality rate of mourning doves in their first year of life is around 75%.

One of the most dangerous diseases for mourning doves is trichomoniasis. This disease is highly contagious among all species of doves. There was one recorded outbreak in Alabama that resulted in the death of more than 100,000 doves of varying species.

Trichomoniasis is carried by raptors and can easily be passed onto doves that have come into contact with one of these birds of prey but have been lucky enough to escape being killed by the predator. Once a dove contracts the disease it will pass it onto the chicks during feeding.

It’s also possible for doves to pick up this disease from infected drinking water and then pass it onto their chicks.

Trichomoniasis is a bacterial disease that results in a yellow growth in the dove’s mouth. This prevents the bird from being able to eat, so it eventually starves to death.

Avian pox is another disease that can be transmitted by insects onto doves. This disease can produce symptoms of breathing difficulty and difficulty in eating or drinking. As you can imagine, death is often the result of this disease.

Mourning doves that have adapted to living in urban areas are also in danger of salmonella poisoning from backyard feeders and drinking fountains or dispensers. Salmonella can easily be spread by infected birds through touching the different food sources and water dispensers. For this reason, it’s important for people with backyard feeders and bird baths to clean them often to avoid contamination.

The Mourning Dove’s Nesting And Mating Habits Help Increase Its Survival

By this stage, you might be wondering why there are still so many mourning doves right around the country and how they have been able to help the species survive.

A look at their nesting and mating habits may help to explain this.

Doves reach sexual maturity at one year of age. Therefore, all the doves that have survived their first year of life are now ready to mate and reproduce.

First of all, mourning doves mate for life, so when a female bird has chosen her mate, the two work together to build the nest. Once the nest is ready and the mating has been achieved, the female bird will usually lay 2 eggs.

Then, both birds take turns in raising the young. While the female bird will sit on the nest during the night, the male bird will hunt for food. During the day, the roles are reversed with the male sitting on the nest and the female bird looking for food.

Mourning doves have this interesting ability to store as many seeds as they can pick up, in their crop. This is an enlarged cavity in their esophagus. Once the crop is full, the bird will fly off somewhere safe to actually digest the seeds.

After around 15 days, the eggs will hatch and the both parents will continue to look after the young, feeding them crop milk until they’re ready to learn to fly and leave the nest.

The most interesting aspect about this nesting behavior is that mourning doves can breed all year round but their primary nesting season is around spring and summer. However, when the first brood leaves the nest, the breeding doesn’t stop.

Female doves can brood several clutches every year, one after the other. This prolific breeding has ensured that the species has been able to survive even against all the odds.

How Mourning Doves Can Survive In Tough Desert Conditions

Another testament to the mourning dove’s ability to survive against all odds is the fact that they can actually drink brackish spring water in the desert. This water has around half the salt content of sea water.

While we humans would quickly become dehydrated drinking salt water, this does not affect the doves and they’re able to survive on this water.

Final Thoughts

Mourning doves are widespread throughout North America. Their average lifespan is around 1.5 years. However, if they can survive their first year, they are likely to live another four years or more. In fact, the oldest recorded mourning dove living in the wild, lived to a ripe old age of just over 30 years.

Many factors contribute to the mourning dove’s ability to live a relatively long life. These include predators, loss of habitat, climate change, hunters and diseases. However, the bird’s ability to produce several new clutches of eggs each year has ensured that enough of the young birds will survive to carry on the species.

Even though every year, hunters kill more than 20 million birds, the mourning dove population in the US is still said to be around 350 million.

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