How To Attract Mourning Doves To Your Yard

While mourning doves may not have the striking colors or elusive nature of some popular species among bird watchers, their gentle natures and soothing calls make them a joy to have around. Not only do they not harm any other species, they are also actually beneficial to farmers and gardeners. The fact that they eat the seeds from unwanted weeds and waste grain makes them excellent at clearing the ground of seeds you don't want to sprout. 

In addition to their calming, easily identifiable coo, the mourning dove, commonly called the turtle dove, is also widely adored for its association with love, unity, and peace, as they are known to mate for life, and are commonly found snuggled up in pairs.  

If you are looking to attract mourning doves to your yard, choosing the right kind of feeder is equally as important as choosing the right food. Because they are large birds, mourning doves prefer open, flat feeders that allow them to easily and comfortably perch. Stocking your open feeder with various types of seeds, grains, nuts, and grasses is likely to entice mourning doves to your yard and keep them coming back for more.

Type of feeder to use to attract mourning doves

The type of feeder(s) you use in your yard play a major role in determining whether or not any mourning doves will be tempted to stop by. The large, plump bodies of mourning doves (that make them so cute) also inherently make them quite a bit less dainty and not as capable of maneuvering certain types of feeders as smaller birds. Because of this, mourning doves are most likely to land on large, open platform feeders that allow them to comfortably hang out. A large, open feeder will also allow more mourning doves to visit a single feeder at once.

Of course, it's always possible for mourning doves to eat the food that drops to the ground from any type of feeder, though a platform feeder offers them a comfortable place to actually eat their food – since they don't actually eat it when they are plucking around on the ground. Similarly to how squirrels store food in their cheeks for later, mourning doves stockpile food in an enlarged part of their esophagus to be eaten for later. This food stockpile is what often gives a mourning dove's chest that notoriously (adorable) pudgy appearance.

Though mourning doves will often spend plenty of time on the ground gathering fallen seeds, they typically wait until they are safely off the ground before they let their guard down enough to eat and rest. This is when they will be particularly appreciative of your open, platform feeder.

What to use in a feeder to attract mourning doves

Mourning doves love seeds, and because their beaks aren't specialized to crack shells, they especially love pre-shelled sunflower seeds. Though they are capable of swallowing a sunflower shell whole to avoid cracking one open, offering up already shelled ones makes it a much more tempting option for them. In addition to sunflower seeds, mourning doves also like to snack on peanuts, though unlike with sunflowers, they aren't capable of swallowing the shell of a peanut whole. For this reason, it's best to leave out shelled peanuts for them instead. 

A feed that includes millet, wheat, and milo will also be difficult for a mourning dove to pass by, as will a feeder that contains safflower seeds. Safflower seeds in particular are a great source of protein and fat for mourning doves. If the squirrels in your yard always seem to steal the food before the birds get a chance to, leaving safflower seeds out also comes with the added benefit of keeping squirrels at bay, since they don't like the taste nearly as much as mourning doves do.

Cracked corn is a favorite of mourning doves, and is a great source of protein and fiber, so putting some in your feeder is sure to attract them in droves. They also love feasting on grains and ragweed.

What to avoid using in a feeder if you want to attract mourning doves

In addition to unshelled peanuts, which mourning doves aren't able to easily swallow whole, it's best to avoid pre-shelled nuts and seeds that have added salt.

Bread and iceberg lettuce are also best avoided in your quest to attract mourning doves to your yard. While people commonly feed bread to mourning doves and other common birds such as ducks, it's not the best choice for them. Though they may find it tasty, it lacks much nutritional content, and they often fill up on these things, preventing them from seeking foods with the nutritional content that they need.

Though mourning doves consider most other seed varieties to be a treat, they tend to stay away from flax seed and canary seed. In addition to not easily being able to land on most specialized fruit and nectar feeders, their contents also won't entice or attract mourning doves.