Today, I will show you SIX ways to attract Mourning Doves to your yard!
In my opinion, Mourning Doves are underrated and don’t get the respect they deserve at feeders. Unfortunately, some people don’t find them pretty enough or think they “hog” the feeders from other birds.
Here’s why I like attracting Mourning Doves:
- They are relatively peaceful and don’t “bully” smaller songbirds away.
- Mourning Doves tend to stay at your feeders for a long time, which gives you a great chance to observe them. Many birds, like chickadees, quickly take a piece of food and eat it somewhere else out of view.
- Their soft-cooing sound and whistling wings are easy to identify and fun to hear. Learn how to identify their sounds HERE!
- Since Mourning Doves enjoy eating from the ground, they are great at cleaning up seeds that have fallen from the feeders, which helps prevent rotting and rodents.
- I find them beautifully colored. Look for the blue ring surrounding their eyes and a pink iridescence on their necks!
I hope you enjoy and find this information useful. In addition to Mourning Doves, the below information should work for other dove species, like the Common Ground-Dove, Inca Dove, White-winged Dove, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Band-tailed Pigeon, and even the familiar and feral Rock Pigeon.
- RELATED: 7 Doves (& Pigeons) That Live In The United States and Canada! (w/ RANGE MAPS)
#1. Use their FOUR favorite foods!
Doves almost exclusively eat seeds, which make up 99% of their diet! So it should come as no surprise that you need to offer an array of seeds at your bird feeding station to attract them.
But not all seeds are created equal. If you look at a Mourning Dove’s beak, you will see that it’s relatively small. This means they can’t crack open large nuts or eat larger seeds, such as acorns. Naturally, doves consume massive amounts of small seeds, typically from wild grasses.
To attract Mourning Doves, try these FOUR foods:
A. Safflower seeds:
*Nutrition content: 38% fat, 16% protein, 34% carbohydrates
My Mourning Doves LOVE safflower seeds and gorge themselves on a daily basis. But, unlike Northern Cardinals, that crack open safflower seeds to eat the meat inside, doves swallow it whole and let their crops digest the entire seed. (The crop is an extension of the esophagus that stores the food prior to it being digested)
A fantastic benefit of safflower seeds is that many “problem” birds ignore them, which leaves more food for doves!
For example, safflower seeds are used by many people (including me) to prevent blackbirds (such as grackles and starlings) and squirrels!
B. White Proso Millet
Nutrition Info: 4% fat, 11% protein, 73% carbohydrates
Millet is a favorite food among many ground-feeding birds, like Mourning Doves. It is generally not sold individually but is included in many birdseed mixes.
There are a few different types of millet, but the best one is white proso millet, which is a small round starchy grain.
A word of warning: Many birdseed mixes contain RED proso millet, which is red and smaller than white millet. Doves will eat red millet, but most other birds will not. So, if possible, I would try to avoid buying a mix that includes red millet.
C. Cracked Corn
Nutrition Information: 5% fat, 9% protein, 74% carbohydrates
Cracked corn is whole kernel corn that has been chopped up. Mourning Doves can’t eat WHOLE kernel corn because it’s too big, but they have no problem eating cracked corn.
The best part about cracked corn is its INEXPENSIVE price! In fact, this grain is commonly used in birdseed mixes to help get the overall price lower.
D. Shelled Sunflower Seeds:
Nutrition Information: 40% fat, 16% protein, 20% carbohydrates
Mourning Doves LOVE eating sunflower seeds, but they seem to like them best when already shelled. While they can swallow an entire black-oil sunflower seed, I have found they prefer to eat them with the husks already taken off.
One of the BEST parts about sunflower seeds is that they attract the widest amount of birds versus any other food. Seriously, you can expect cardinals, jays, nuthatches, titmice, woodpeckers, grosbeaks, finches, nutcrackers, juncos, blackbirds, sparrows, and grackles, in addition to doves!
A note about MILO seeds:
There is actually another food that Mourning Doves love to eat, which is called milo. It’s a common “filler” seed and is used in many bags of cheap birdseed. It’s incredibly inexpensive to produce, which helps keep costs down.
Unfortunately, almost no other bird will eat milo, except for doves, House Sparrows, quail, and Wild Turkeys. Because of this short list, and since I try to control the House Sparrows at my feeders already, I don’t recommend buying birdseed mixes that contain milo.
#2. Use this type of feeder to attract Mourning Doves!
Ok, now that we know which foods Mourning Doves can’t resist, we need to discuss the kinds of feeders they will use.
First, please know that any sort of tube feeder is not suitable for doves. These birds are too large to fit on the small metal perch and can’t twist their bodies around to the feeding port. In addition, any bird feeder that has a small perch or requires grasping to the sides (like a suet feeder) is not going to work.
Mourning Doves want a large, open area to feed. The best feeders to use are trays or platforms. This lets these big birds have plenty of space to eat. Large hopper feeders that provide lots of open space also work well.
Here is my favorite tray feeder to use:
Click PLAY below to see this feeder LIVE on the ground in my backyard! You may see a Mourning Dove right now. (Learn more about my live bird cams HERE)
This feeder is an excellent, multi-purpose tray. I love that it can be used in three ways; on the ground, hung in the air, or mounted to a pole.
To attract doves, the BEST place to put the tray is on the ground. This location is where they feel the most comfortable eating. Just spread a mixture of sunflower seeds, white proso millet, safflower seeds, or cracked corn inside and watch them come! 🙂
I also have this feeder mounted to my pole, which gives Mourning Doves a large area to land and feed!
- The metal screen bottom provides excellent drainage. So your food will never be sitting in standing water. The screen bottom is also removable and slides right out. This feature makes it easy to clean!
- My only complaint with this tray feeder is its durability. It’s made from wood, and the screws that connect the fold-out legs tend to get loose after a year or two and need replacing.
Putting food directly on the ground also attracts doves!
If you don’t want to spend additional money on another bird feeder, it’s not necessary for Mourning Doves. Instead, throw a handful of their favorite foods directly on the ground. This is where they feel the most comfortable eating anyway.
The main benefit of using a ground feeder, like the Woodlink Tray above, is that the food stays fresher longer since it’s not lying on the ground.
#3. Attract MOURNING DOVES by providing water!
Another great way to get doves to visit your yard is to provide a constant, consistent water source. Mourning Doves not only will use it to keep hydrated but also to bathe and stay clean.
Doves have a unique way of drinking. Most birds will take up one bill’s worth of water at a time, but doves use a suction method, which allows them to drink a continuous stream of water. In under 20 seconds, they can suck up enough water for the entire day!
The best way to offer water is to buy a bird bath (unless you are lucky enough to have a stream or lake in your yard). And when it comes to attracting Mourning Doves, you will want to find a GROUND BIRD BATH. As we have already discussed, these birds feel most comfortable on the ground.
Here is the bath I use in my yard for Mourning Doves (and other birds):
First, I like that this ground bath is made from recycled poly lumber. This material is incredibly durable. I have owned this product for a few years now, and there has been no fading, splitting, or cracking of the material.
The height of the bath is roughly 6 inches (15 cm) off the ground, so it’s easily accessible for doves and many other animals. Even newborn ducklings have been observed jumping up and going for a swim!
I leave this birdbath in my yard all year round. During the winter, I place a deicer into the water to prevent freezing. Since the water is only 2 inches (5 cm) deep, it freezes extremely fast, as you can imagine.
Lastly, I wanted to mention that the plastic pan is not attached to the poly lumber. So this makes cleaning the pan extremely easy! Almost every time I refill the bath with water, I remove the pan and dump out the debris that the birds managed to spill into the water.
#4. Provide plenty of places for them to perch.
When they are not eating, Mourning Doves love to perch together in flocks! Therefore, the more perching places in your yard, the more likely these birds will hang around.
The ideal habitat includes lots of large trees! If your yard is a big, giant field, you should consider planting trees. You might be thinking that it’s going to take a long time for that tree to grow tall enough to attract roosting Mourning Doves. But as they say, the best time to plant a tree was 30 years ago, and the second-best time is today!
If you don’t have any trees, I wouldn’t worry too much. The Mourning Doves in my yard LOVE perching on the top of my house. It seems to give them a great vantage point to watch the feeders. In addition, it’s also common to see doves sitting on power lines.
#5. Place your feeding station near safety!
Compared to other birds that come to your feeders, Mourning Doves are pretty large, so they make a tasty meal for birds of prey, specifically Cooper’s Hawks. In addition, doves are not as quick to take off as other songbirds, so they tend to get preyed upon more.
- RELATED: 16 Types of Hawks Found in the United States and Canada! (w/ pics)
While I know that predators eating prey is part of nature, I don’t want the Mourning Doves in my yard to be sitting ducks!
So, I recommend placing your feeding station as close as possible to shelter and cover. This gives birds a better chance to get away and makes them feel safer, so you will attract more birds as well. The worst place to put a bird feeder is in the middle of a barren, manicured lawn!
For example, below is a bird’s eye view of my yard. As you can see, my feeding station is placed along the woods. It’s also under some branches, making it harder for a hawk to swoop in from above.
#6. Landscape your yard with plants that provide food.
One of the best things you can do to attract Mourning Doves is to focus on the habitat in your yard.
- RELATED: 32 Common Flowers That Attract Hummingbirds (Easy To Grow)
Your goal is to plant flowers, shrubs, and trees that provide a natural food source. And the best part is that using a combination of the following plants not only will attract doves but also a wide variety of other species!
One of my best tips is to let an area of your yard grow wild! All types of wildlife will prefer this instead of having a finely manicured lawn. In fact, one of the WORST things you can do for birds and other creatures is to have a monoculture of grass that is full of pesticides, fungicides, and fertilizer.
Here are some plants that provide food sources for Mourning Doves:
*Please know that the list below is in no way all-inclusive. Including every flower, shrub, or tree that may attract Mourning Doves would be nearly impossible. But I did my best to find plants that work well and are relatively common to find.*
- A wide assortment of native grasses (Canary, rye, goosegrass)
- Purple Coneflower
- Black-eyed Susans
- Pine trees (for both pine nuts for food and nesting areas)
- Sweetgum trees
How do YOU attract Mourning Doves?
Leave a comment below!