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What Eats Mourning Doves? 5 Potential Predators

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a mourning dove bird on a birdhouse

Eat or be eaten. It’s the natural way of things unless something is an apex predator. Mourning doves are not anywhere close to the top of the food chain and as a result, they have several obvious predators that we’ll discuss below.

Most birds’ main concern is larger birds of prey as they spend most of their time in the trees or air. However, that’s something that leaves these doves at an extra disadvantage—they prefer feeding on the ground and spend a lot of time there. This makes them a much easier target for other animals that would not usually be able to get at a bird easily.

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What Eats Mourning Doves? 5 Potential Predators

1. Birds of Prey

Mourning doves are typically quite big and make excellent targets for larger birds of prey—hawks, falcons, eagles, etc. This is a primary reason these birds prefer to be nestled in thick branches if they’re in the tree.

One technique that the mourning dove uses for safety from bigger birds is filling their crop with seeds from a feeder or the ground. Then they fly into the trees and hide away while digesting the food.

a red-tailed hawk

Image Credit: sondinh2000, Pixabay


2. Snakes

The type of snakes that prey on mourning doves depends on the area. Also, a snake feeding on a bird is typically a more opportunistic kill than anything. And it’s usually only a full-grown snake that will go after an adult bird.

Five of the common ones to feed on the birds in the States are:

  • Diamondback rattlesnake
  • Copperhead
  • Kingsnake
  • Coachwhip
  • Rat snake

3. Cats

It’s no secret that cats love to hunt birds of all kinds. So, they are perhaps the most dangerous domestic animal to a mourning dove. One of the ways to encourage mourning doves to visit your yard is to discourage cats from being able to get to them or their feeding areas.

domestic house cat close up

Image Credit: Nennieinszweidrei, Pixabay


4. Small Mammals

In addition to cats, mourning doves also need to watch out for other small mammals like raccoons or possums. While these critters may not necessarily hunt a dove down like a cat because they are more opportunistic like snakes. But they will still snack on the bird if the occasion presents itself.


5. Humans

Doves may be a symbol of peace worldwide, but in many places—most of the eastern United States, for example—they are a prolific game bird. According to a 2021 report by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, almost 10 million birds were harvested in the 2019–2020 season.

With those numbers in mind, humans are probably one of the most dangerous predators to the mourning dove. However, remember that this bird’s population numbers are not in danger because of their breeding habits—they’re basically rabbits with wings!

hunter walking to the hunting site

Image Credit: CLP Media, Shutterstock

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Protecting Mourning Doves

Because mourning doves are a wild species, keeping them as pets is illegal as they are protected under the Migratory Bird Act in most of Canada and the United States. But you don’t have to domesticate them and keep them as pets if you want to protect them.

Here are some ways that you can help protect them while they are using your yard as a home:

  • Minimize the risk of cats or other animals getting to the doves.
  • Keep trees trimmed so the doves can roost and perch in them safely.
  • Provide food and water sources for them near the safety of the trees.

hummingbird dividerFAQs About Mourning Doves

Do mourning doves prey on each other?

Simple answer: no. Mourning doves are seed eaters and don’t eat meat. However, it’s not uncommon to see three of these birds flying around pecking at each other. In most cases, this would be a form of mating competition. These groups are typically two males vying for the attention of the female.

mourning dove sleeping

Image Credit: daledbet, Pixabay

What happens if a mourning dove’s mate dies?

Mourning doves mate for life. It’s interesting what happens when one’s mate dies—they’ve been observed attempting to care for the deceased mate or return to the spot where it died. However, they will eventually move on and find another mate.

How long does a mourning dove live?

Unless eaten before its time, a mourning dove will love approximately 1–2 years. With this lifespan, a female will lay around 15 to 20 eggs, contributing to why there are no problems with the dove’s population numbers.

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Closing Thoughts

Many people enjoy watching these doves and don’t really want to think about them being a meal. However, the circle of life is just another part of our reality. The nice thing is that the mourning dove is not in danger of going extinct, even with the number of them being hunted by several predators.


Featured Image Credit: GeorgiaLens, Pixabay

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.

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