Doves are one of the most chaotic nest builders among wild bird species. They will build a nest anywhere, including in stumps, fallen trees, bushes, and even on the ground. Mourning doves build their flimsy nests out of sticks and leaves. It's not unheard of for a dove nest to simply blow away, forcing the pair to rebuild.
While mourning doves are not endangered, urbanization and habitat loss greatly strain many bird species. Providing birdhouses and nesting boxes for our feathered friends is a great way to counteract some of the negative impact human influence has on wild birds.
First, we will cover the best type of birdhouses for mourning doves and other dove species, then answer some common questions about DIY dove birdhouses. Even if you’re uncomfortable with elaborate birdhouse plans and woodworking, you can still learn how to build a birdhouse for doves.
What is the best kind of birdhouse for a mourning dove?
A large birdhouse, nesting shelf, or nest platform is the best type of birdhouse for a mourning dove. Mourning doves prefer open spaces for roosting and nesting. Like blue jays and phoebes, dove bird species prefer larger bird nesting boxes and birdhouses. Birdhouses are at least 8 by 8 inches at the base and should have at least 8-10 inches in height.
There are several different styles of wooden birdhouses suitable for doves:
- Diamond or pentagon-shaped birdhouses with a railing to hold nesting materials
- Nesting ledges with a simple nest platform, back, and a roof
- Traditional-looking birdhouses made with an opening big enough for a large bird
- A diamond-shaped backboard with a wire or wooden nesting box without a roof
Whatever style you choose, as long as it is large enough and has ample ventilation, you’ll have doves roosting and nesting in your birdhouse in no time.
What materials do I need for a DIY dove birdhouse?
You can use a variety of untreated wood for your dove bird house, a recommendation that is made across all bird species. Natural wood materials are better for the health of the nestlings, and all bird populations. If you’re uncomfortable with woodworking, a nesting cone can be made with hardware cloth and a metal hanger.
As long as your DIY birdhouse is big enough for a large bird and open enough for adequate ventilation, doves are easily pleased. You can start with a simple nesting cone made from hardware cloth, also known as stainless steel mesh. Here are the simple instructions to build a dove’s nesting cone:
- Shape the stainless steel mesh cloth into a cone shape
- Fasten the sides together with zip ties, cotton twine, or twisted metal
- Make sure to bend back or cut any sharp wires sticking out.
- Bend and shape a metal coat hanger into a diamond shape
- Attach cone to the bottom half of diamond with zip ties or twine
You can also make a nesting cone by stapling the stainless steel cone onto a piece of outdoor-treated plywood at least 8 inches on all sides. Assemble your backboard into the shape of a diamond and staple the the cone to the bottom half.
For a wooden birdhouse, you don’t need to buy birdhouse plans to make a good dove birdhouse. Any style birdhouse at least 8 by 8 inches wide and deep and 8-10 inches tall will work for mourning doves. Mourning doves will also nest and roost on platforms and nesting shelves as long as ample greenery protects them from predators.
Should I provide a separate nesting box?
Doves take turns caring for eggs and roost away from the nesting site. While providing too many birdhouses or nesting boxes can cause territorial disputes, having a few options for your wild birds is a good idea. Mourning doves are notoriously chaotic nesters. They will build a nest in any soft area, including the ground.
You won’t know whether they will nest in your birdhouse or use a specific nesting box until they choose their nesting site. While mourning doves will nest on the ground, they do have a preference height of 10-15 feet. You can attach birdhouses and dove nesting boxes to trees, poles, or eaves. Using a hanger to mount your boxes makes cleaning them out easier. Just wait until mid to late fall to clean them out when the breeding season ends and young doves are out of the nest.
Should I place my birdhouse close to the bird feeder?
Hanging bird nesting boxes or birdhouses closer than 10 feet from a bird feeder can cause problems. Too much activity can discourage wild birds from nesting or roosting in bird boxes. Providing a few options for nesting and roosting will make your backyard a more welcoming place for our feathered friends. Just be careful to leave ample space between each box, bird feeders, and baths.
Spilled bird seed can also attract predators, making those predators more likely to find the nesting site nearby. Spilled bird seed also poses a health risk if it’s not cleaned up before it grows mold and bacteria. Nesting birds are territorial, and for a good reason.
Having too many songbirds close to the area where doves are hatching eggs or caring for nestlings might cause the doves to abandon their nest. Dove bird species are known to be skittish and flighty, which adds to their offspring’s already low survival rate. Keeping bird feeders and bird baths at least 10 feet away from nesting sites will help doves focus on caring for their broods.
Can I check on baby doves in my dove nesting box?
It is very tempting to check in on dove broods in your wooden birdhouse. But you absolutely should not because disturbing the nesting site can cause a higher mortality rate in hatchlings. Of course, it’s tempting to see how doves are getting on in your nesting box, but there are several reasons not to disturb the nest directly:
- Disturbing the nesting box can shock and flush the adult out of the nest
- When doves are flushed, their loud flapping may alert predators to their nesting site
- Frightened nestlings may fledge too early, leaving the nest well before their typical 13-14 days
- If a nest is disturbed often enough, the dove pair may abandon the nest entirely
- Disturbed nests are about half as successful as undisturbed nests.
With only about 25% of doves surviving their first year of life, it’s important to leave dove nests undisturbed whenever possible. But there are many ways you can observe dove broods without disturbing them.
- Invest in a pair of quality bird-watching binoculars
- Install a remote wildlife camera near your hanging nesting box or wooden birdhouse
- Install a wireless birdbox camera before hanging your birdhouse or nesting box
If none of these options are available, you can check out the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Nest Watch for videos and photos of mourning doves raising families. That way, you can see what’s happening in your birdhouses without disturbing your wild birds. Mourning dove birdhouses can be purchased at most retailers, or you can build your mourning dove birdhouse. Keep in mind that doves are easily startled and known to abandon nests.
When choosing your birdhouse, or a DIY project, remember:
- Doves like large, open boxes
- Hang birdhouses and nesting boxes 10-15 feet from the ground
- Avoid disturbing nesting doves
- Wait until mid to late fall before cleaning birdhouses out for the winter
- Keep birdhouses and nesting boxes at least 10 feet from food and water
- Avoid woods treated with chemicals
- Wild birds are territorial, so don’t hang too many boxes and leave plenty of space between them
If you remember these key tips, you’ll have these beautiful cooing songbirds filling your birdhouses in no time!