Mourning dove (Zenaida macroura) - local seasonal appearance

Based on 1,577 observations in Seymour township, Northumberland county, southeast Ontario, 1999-2020.

The mourning dove is a common sight at winter bird feeders or, rather, on the ground beneath the custom, pole-mounted feeders, and basking on and in the old home-made platform-style feeder. In the Trent Hills area, the dove is near the north end of its sedentary range. It is a year-round fixture of gardens and woodlands in the area. Most commonly 1-2 birds are seen at any given time, but small groups of 5-8 birds are often found resting in low bushes. Occasionally a larger group may pass by in a flurry, seldom more than 9-16 birds. A gentle relative of the pigeon clan, the delicate mourning dove can be recognized by distinctive sounds, a cooing call and the whistle of wind through the wings and signature long tail.

It is a common summer resident and uncommon winter resident at Presqu'ile provincial park, roughly 40 km to the south (LaForest, 1993, pp.203-204). Bird feeders have helped it to stabilise a winter bridgehead north of Lake Ontario. In the Kingston region to our southeast (Weir, 1989, pp.243-245) it is also hard to determine when migrating birds have returned, since they may be confused with the overwintering population. Weir notes that the species spread into southern Ontario during the 20th century, and has increased in frequency of occurrence, of breeding, and spending the winter months in the region.

The story is much the same in Peterborough county, to the northwest. The bird is a common resident for the 7 months of March through September, and - with the help of human-provided feed - overwinters in small numbers (Sadler, 1983, p.91). The Breeding Bird Atlases of Ontario (Cadman et al., 1987, pp.196-197; 2007, pp.282-283) affirm that the mourning dove, like its rough-cut cousin the feral pigeon ("rock dove"), breeds in most areas south of the Canadian shield, from Windsor east to the lower Ottawa valley. It is most abundant in the Carolinian ecological region of southwest Ontario, and prefers rural areas, reflecting a need for a seed diet, including waste grain on farms, weeds and, nowadays, bird feeders. The dove is a widely-hunted game bird in much of the USA, though it is not hunted in Ontario. Its numbers have been growing here for several decades.

View the 22-year (1999-2020) monthly data summary for the mourning dove.


Cadman,MD, Eagles,PFJ and Helleiner,FM (1987) Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario. Federation of Ontario Naturalists and Long Point Bird Observatory, published by University of Waterloo Press, 617pp.

Cadman,MD, Sutherland,DA, Beck,GG, Lepage,D and Couturier,AR (editors) (2007) Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario, 2001-2005. Bird Studies Canada, Environment Canada, Ontario Field Ornithologists, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and Ontario Nature, 706pp.

LaForest,SM (1993) Birds of Presqu'ile Provincial Park. Friends of Presqu'ile Park, Brighton, Ontario / Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, 436pp.

Sadler,D (1983) Our Heritage of Birds: Peterborough County in the Kawarthas. Peterborough Field Naturalists / Orchid Press, Peterborough, ON, 192pp.

Weir,RD (1989) Birds of the Kingston Area. Quarry Press, 608pp. plus map.

Graham Wilson, 11-13 March 2021

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