What Do Mourning Doves Sound Like Songs & Sounds

The Mourning Dove song is a series of coo’s with an accented ‘AHH’ in the middle and two or three coo’s drawn out at the end. In addition to coo’s, their wings also make a loud whistling noise when taking off or landing to signal other birds or warn off predators.

Are Mourning Doves sad? While their mournful coos strike sadness in the hearts of birdwatchers, they’re not sad at all! Mourning Dove coos are a way to attract a mate, defend their favorite perching branch, or communicate with other Mourning Doves. If you can determine the unique difference between a perch call and a nest call, it’s easy to figure out what these birds are trying to say when hanging out in your backyard!

The call of these North American birds is mournful and sad, hence the name. Even novice birders can quickly identify the unique bird call of the mourning dove. However, the frequency of coos and the series of sounds can indicate anything from nesting and mating to communication with other mourning doves. If you can distinguish the perch call from the nest call, it’s easy to figure out what these backyard birds are saying.

What Sounds do Mourning Doves Make?

There isn’t much variation in the calls of the mourning dove (also known as the Carolina turtle dove or Eurasian collared dove). Mourning dove calls are simple and are composed of a series of cooing sounds that indicate anything from a male trying to attract a mate to two parents communicating with each other over nesting duties.

To determine what the mourning dove is saying, you must detect the cadence of the perch and the nest calls. Once you crack the Morse code of mourning doves, it becomes simple to determine what they are saying!

Perch Call

The morning dove’s perch coo is their most notable bird sound. It sounds like a series of coos with a higher-pitched coo in the middle and lower-pitched coos at the end. During mating season, male mourning doves perch on a tree branch and bellow their mournful cooing sound to attract a mate.

What’s interesting about the perch coo is that some birdwatches discovered that many male mourning doves have a favorite cooing branch. They often return to the same branch for their cooing calls and fiercely defend their favorite spot from other male mourning doves.

The perch call starts about an hour before the sun comes up during the breeding season and can last up to two hours! They often take a break to refuel later in the morning and start cooing again in the afternoon (until they find a mate).

mourning dove calls includes a nest call

Nest Call

This call is composed of three very distinct coo-oo-oo notes that last only a second. Overall the nest call is very similar to the perch call, but there are a few key differences. First, the nesting call is much quieter than the perch coo. The nest call vocalizations range from high, low, and back to low (unlike the perch call that shifts from low to high and then three low notes).

The nest call aims to attract a female mourning dove to a potential nesting site. If you hear the sound of a nest call, try and find the mourning dove’s location up in the trees. Often, a male mourning dove that sings its nest call sits right next to a potential nesting site!

The nesting call is also a way for male and female mourning doves to indicate that it’s time to switch spots while nesting. Unlike other backyard birds, mourning doves take turns incubating eggs. Sometimes, the faint coo-oo-oo call is a way for the female to tell the male that they need to swap places. The incubation period lasts up to 14 days, so both parents must take turns incubating the nest!

Alarm Call

When a mourning dove flaps its wings, it emits a loud and messy whistling noise. A mourning dove’s take-off is quite noisy. However, that noisy take-off serves a variety of essential functions. Their squeaky kazoo-like wing flight is also referred to as a wing whistle. It’s a way to tell fellow mourning dove broods that a predator is nearby and that it’s time to leave.

When observing mourning doves around your birdfeeders, their wing whistles are a way of telling other mourning doves that there is immediate danger. If one mourning dove around a birdfeeder takes off in flight, the whistling sounds tell other mourning doves that it’s time to make a quick exit. If one leaves, they all go!

When Does the Mourning Dove Sing?

The perch call of the mourning dove is the loudest at the beginning of the breeding season. While the mourning dove lives in most parts of North America, the start of the breeding seasons changes based on location. In New York, for instance, breeding season starts in mid-March. In warmer climate, like in states such as Florida, the breeding season begins as early as February and lasts well into October!

Once breeding season commences, male mourning doves begin their perch call before the sun comes up. Their coo-AH-oo coo-coo bird call lasts a few hours, stops, and then picks up later in the day until they find a female.

mourning dove calls includes a coo-ooo sound

Does a Mourning Dove Sound Like An Owl?

Owls and mourning doves sound very similar, but there are key differences. Owls hoot while mourning doves coo. It’s also important to note that since owls are primarily nocturnal birds, their hooting happens late at night after the sun sets while mourning doves sleep.

The call of the owl and mourning dove are very similar, but these bird calls don’t overlap. Check the time if you hear a bird that sounds very similar to a mourning dove. If you hear a “ooo” noise at night, it’s an owl!

How Many Types of Doves Are There?

There are over 299 different species of Doves living in the world, and 15 of them live in North America. Mourning doves are a part of the Columbiformes, including other doves, pigeons, and solitaires species. Of the 15 species of Columbidae living in North America, the mourning dove is the most widespread in urban and suburban areas. Their habitat spans from Southern Canada to Mexico, with many mourning doves maintaining full-time residency in most parts of the United States.

Tara Summerville

Tara Summerville is a freelance writer that loves her backyard birdfeeders. She enjoys sitting on her deck with a cup of coffee, watching cardinals, blue jays, finches, and chickadees munch away at her backyard offerings. Her fascination with birds began as a child; spending afternoons at her grandma's house watching and identifying birds. She has since carried her love of songbirds into adulthood and ensures no bird in her yard goes hungry!

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