6 Proven Ways to Attract Mourning Doves to Feeders! (2024)

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:

how to attract 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.
  • 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.

#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.

attracting mourning doves

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:

Food #1: Safflower seeds:

safflower seed - best bird food

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*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!

Food #2: White Proso Millet

white proso millet birdseed

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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.

Food #3: Cracked Corn

cracked corn - types of birdseed

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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.

Food #4: Shelled Sunflower Seeds:

Hulled sunflower seed - best birdseed types

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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:

worst birdseed for mixes

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:

Woodlink Tray Bird Feeder

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)

YouTube video

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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!

attracting mourning doves with the right feeders

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!

attracting mourning doves with 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):

JCS Wildlife Poly Lumber Birdbath

best ground bird baths

Compare the prices of this birdbath!

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.

attract mourning doves with natural food sources

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.

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. 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.

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!

how to attract mourning doves

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)
  • Buckwheat
  • Smartweed
  • Asters
  • Goldenrod
  • Pokeweed
  • Purple Coneflower
  • Sunflowers
  • Black-eyed Susans
  • Pine trees (for both pine nuts for food and nesting areas)
  • Sweetgum trees

How do YOU attract Mourning Doves?

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  1. I have a window feeder with a mix of milo, sunflower seeds and cracked corn that they love. At times they do bully birds like finches, juncos, cardinals and blue jays when feeding on it to keep them away.

  2. I LOVE mourning doves, too! And agree, they are underrated. Thanks for this in depth, very detailed article! I already have many but have to be a little wary of the neighborhood cats, otherwise, I am going to incorporate every tip in this article. THANK YOU!!
    Teri Eastern WA state

  3. I just want to say thank you for your time and research putting together these articles. I have enjoyed them and have learned so much. I have been trying out and using the information to successful enjoyment. Thanks

  4. Did you know that Doves and Pigeons are the only birds
    that feed their young a rich in fat and protein liquid (called
    pigeon milk)

  5. Your info about Doves not eating whole corn is WRONG. When doves flock to a picked corn field they are eating whole kernal corn. After a dove hunt I have counted as many as 17 whole kernels in a dove i was cleaning.

  6. Hi Scott, We are snow birds, 7 months in Florida 5 months in Massachusetts, 3 years ago in May we were leaving for Massachusetts the next morning I found a baby Ground dove in a pouring rain storm in my yard, she could not fly, so I brought her in the house and hand feed her water and seed and figured she’d be dry in the morning and I could release her. We’ll morning came and she indeed was dry but still could not fly, and we were leaving so we decided to take the dove with us to Massachusetts with the intention of letting her loose once she was able to fly. When we got up to Massachusetts we discovered that our little dove was not a morning dove which we had assumed she was but a ground dove, and after googling ground dove we discovered that they are southern birds and do not go any further north than George. So the plan was to keep our little bird till October and release her in Florida on our return to our winter home. We’ll that was a great plan but our little ground dove became so domesticated and unafraid of our two cats by October that we now have a pet ground dove. My question is how do we attract ground doves to our Florida home, we have never seen another ground dove in our yard, we have seen morning doves but no ground doves😞!

  7. Good morning, Scott.  I’m in NOLA and believe me, I don’t have to attract Mourning Doves.  We have a PLETHORA of them down here.  In fact, all the other birds have a problem with them hogging the feeders.  They “make their bed” in the feeders and camp out for ages, chasing away the other birds who try to avoid them.  I haven’t found a food they don’t love.  They like mixed seeds, cracked corn, peanuts, sunflower and safflower seeds.  I have mostly steel mesh feeders on swinging chains and some large dish feeders for peanuts in the shell.  I get Crows mostly for the peanuts in the shell.  Blue Jays, too.  Cardinals love the sunflower and safflower seeds and so do the House Finches.   I do use smallish hoppers, which the birds like and I tried the large tube shaped feeders, but the food just stays there and gets stale and I’m afraid it will get moldy.   Nobody likes them.There are multiple other birds who I usually can’t identify because they look so similar…especially the females.  But I get Chickadees, Mockingbirds, various Sparrows and I finally was able to identify the male “outlaw” Sparrows from the Middle East that you described…so I have them, too.I like them all…they’re fun to watch, especially when they interact with each other.  Some sniping at each other and some apparently playing.   We can’t get enough of them.  We have cameras up and record them.  They are such fun!Thanks for your educational info.  I never read or watched anything so informative and entertaining on birds before.  Please don’t stop!

  8. Appreciate all the wonderful information you post, love to watch and feed all varieties of burns, don’t see many doves, hope to in the future. Thanks

  9. My husband has been busy keeping feeders full for a wide variety of birds this winter. Today we had a dozen doves feeding on the ground cleaning up what gets spilled and enjoying the cracked corn he spread around! They are beautiful birds.

  10. Love this information!! I put seeds on the ground around my feeder tray, cardinals love the tray, and sprinkle seeds around and between the trees in my yard. I love sitting on my porch and watching the birds! I have had as many as 20 doves feeding at the same time! But one move and they fly away so fast so I sit as still as I can and enjoy the cooing of the doves.

  11. I have 10-14 feeders in my yard ay any given time and it is not uncommon to see 20-30 mourning doves at a time. they tend to feed mainly in the ground around the feeder stations but occasionally will get on the feeders themselves especially the cracked corn. It’s all good as long as everybody eats.

  12. Thank you, Scott, for the great information,

    I leave mixed seed on the ground for the doves and other birds too big to fit on my cylinder feeder. I always have customers eating at the dove diner.

    I also leave a healthy sprinkling of sunflower seeds for the squirrels. I started leaving peanuts for them as well, but to my great surprise, they ignore them. Instead, the blue jays take them to who-knows-where, and that’s fine. They need to eat, too.

    Thank you again for all the work you do. Stay safe.

  13. I love that you did an article on Mourning Doves! They ARE underappreciated!! They are one of my favorite visitors to my tiny backyard feeder station. They come (as many as 6-8 at a time) for cracked corn and safflower in a large tray feeder (Woodlink) and a few are brave enough to come right to my window for Sunflower Hearts in a window tray!! I see them very up-close and they are beautiful and peaceful birds. Also, I have a bird bath (with a water wiggler) just outside my window where I have had two bathing and fluttering at once! 🙂 It’s cool the way they drink big gulpfuls! And then sometimes one or two will perch somewhere in my yard and just rest for awhile.Thank you for all you do and your informative articles 🙂

  14. Aside from chickadees and nuthatches mourning doves are my special birds. I love their soft cooing and their beautiful soft colouring. I appreciate all the helpful information you provide and always look forward to your posts. Thx for the live cam as well.