How Long Do Mourning Doves Sit On Their Eggs: Mourning doves, scientifically known as Zenaida macroura, are one of North America’s most familiar and cherished bird species. Recognizable by their soft, mournful cooing and delicate appearance, these birds play a vital role in our ecosystem as both pollinators and seed dispersers. One of the most fascinating aspects of their life cycle is their commitment to the reproductive process, particularly the duration they spend incubating their eggs.

Mourning doves, like many avian species, invest a significant amount of time and effort into ensuring the survival of their offspring. When the female mourning dove lays her eggs, the clock begins to tick, and the intricate process of incubation commences. The duration of this incubation period is a crucial aspect of their reproductive strategy.

How Long Do Mourning Doves Sit On Their Eggs

The incubation period for mourning doves is a testament to the dedication and care these birds provide to their eggs. During this time, the female dove will meticulously brood her eggs, keeping them warm and protected from the elements. This process involves the transfer of body heat from the dove to the eggs, maintaining a stable temperature crucial for proper embryonic development. It is also during this time that the male dove plays an essential role in supporting his mate, providing her with food and relief from the nest, ensuring that the incubation process is uninterrupted.

The duration of incubation in mourning doves offers a glimpse into the intricate world of avian reproduction. It sheds light on the sacrifices and dedication exhibited by these graceful birds as they ensure the survival of their future generations. In this exploration of mourning dove incubation, we will delve deeper into the factors influencing this period, its significance, and the extraordinary behaviors and adaptations that make these birds such remarkable parents.

Do mourning doves ever leave their eggs?

Parasites are a probable cause of why doves abandon their eggs and young. Insect pests, such as the “pigeon fly,” blood sucking mites, and feather lice make brooding doves so nervous and uncomfortable they quit brooding eggs and young.

Mourning doves, like many bird species, do leave their eggs periodically, but this behavior is necessary for their survival and the successful incubation of their eggs. Mourning doves take turns incubating their eggs, with both the male and female sharing the responsibility. The eggs need to be kept warm to hatch, so the parent on the nest incubates them to maintain the optimal temperature. During incubation, a mourning dove will leave the nest occasionally to forage for food and water, as they need to nourish themselves to maintain their health. These short breaks away from the nest are crucial for the bird’s well-being and to ensure they can provide for their chicks once they hatch.

While mourning doves do leave their eggs during incubation, they are quite attentive parents and rarely stay away from the nest for extended periods. This careful balancing act allows them to provide the necessary care and nourishment to their developing offspring while ensuring their own survival. The parent that is not incubating the eggs takes on the duty of feeding the incubating partner, and they alternate these roles regularly. This cooperative behavior helps maximize the chances of the eggs hatching successfully, and it’s a common strategy employed by many bird species to ensure the well-being of both the parents and their young.

How many times can mourning doves lay eggs?

Mourning Doves may have up to six clutches per year with a typical clutch size of two eggs. This prolific number of nesting cycles is the largest of any North American bird.

Mourning doves, like many other bird species, can lay multiple clutches of eggs in a single breeding season. The number of times mourning doves lay eggs in a year depends on factors such as geographic location, climate, and the availability of resources. In milder regions with longer breeding seasons, they may have the opportunity to raise multiple broods, while in harsher climates, they may only manage one or two.

In more temperate areas, mourning doves can potentially lay eggs up to five or more times in a single breeding season. However, two to three clutches are more typical. Each clutch typically consists of one or two eggs. They have a relatively short incubation period of around 14 days, and once the young birds fledge, the parents may start the process over with a new clutch. Their prolific breeding strategy helps compensate for high juvenile mortality rates and contributes to their population’s stability.

It’s important to note that breeding frequency varies depending on the local conditions, and these birds are adaptable in adjusting their reproduction in response to environmental factors. This ability to adjust their breeding frequency is one reason mourning doves are such successful and widespread birds across North and Central America.

How long do mourning dove eggs take to hatch?

After the pair finishes building the nest—which takes two to four days—the female usually lays the first egg within a couple of days, and a second egg a day or two later. Both parents will take turns incubating the two eggs. The eggs hatch after 14 days.”

Mourning dove eggs typically take about 14 days to hatch. The incubation period is relatively short compared to many other bird species, making it a key feature of their reproductive strategy. This brief incubation period is well-suited to the dove’s lifestyle and allows them to efficiently raise multiple broods in a single breeding season. The exact duration of incubation can vary slightly based on environmental factors like temperature and humidity, but it’s generally close to two weeks.

The incubation process is primarily the responsibility of the female mourning dove, although the male may also take turns incubating the eggs to give the female a break. During this period, the parent(s) keep the eggs warm by sitting on the nest. Their bodies generate the necessary heat to provide optimal conditions for the embryos’ development. This warmth is crucial for the growth of the embryos within the eggs.

Once the eggs hatch, the parents continue to play a vital role in caring for their young. They provide warmth and protection, and they feed the hatchlings a special substance called “pigeon milk,” which is a secretion produced in their crop. The chicks will gradually transition to a diet of regurgitated seeds as they grow. The entire process from egg-laying to fledging is relatively short, which allows mourning doves to produce multiple generations of offspring within a single breeding season. This adaptability and rapid reproductive cycle are essential factors contributing to their successful population and widespread distribution across North and Central America.

Do doves sit on their eggs all the time?

Unlike most birds, Doves incubate their eggs continually. Since the male and female look alike, it appears the same bird is incubating the eggs the whole time. The male does the daytime shift, and the female does the night shift.

Doves, including mourning doves, do not sit on their eggs all the time. While incubation is a crucial part of their reproductive process, they take turns caring for the eggs to ensure their survival and the successful hatching of their offspring. Both the male and female doves share incubation duties, which helps maintain the ideal temperature for the eggs and allows the parents to take short breaks for feeding and other essential activities.

During the incubation period, which typically lasts about 14 days for mourning doves, the adult birds sit on the eggs to keep them warm. The incubating bird’s body heat is essential for the development of the embryos within the eggs. However, they do not stay on the nest continuously. Doves will briefly leave the nest to forage for food, find water, and engage in other necessary activities. These short breaks are vital for their own health and nourishment and help ensure they can provide care for their chicks once they hatch.

The doves’ ability to share incubation responsibilities and alternate their time on the nest is a vital part of their reproductive strategy. This cooperative behavior allows them to meet their own needs while still providing the care required for the eggs and their future offspring. It’s a balance that helps ensure the overall success of the nesting process.

How Long Do Mourning Doves Sit On Their Eggs

What influences the incubation period of mourning doves?

The incubation period of mourning doves, which refers to the time it takes for their eggs to hatch after they start sitting on them, can be influenced by several key factors. First and foremost, ambient temperature plays a significant role. Mourning doves tend to adjust the duration of their incubation based on the prevailing temperature. In colder conditions, they may extend the incubation period to compensate for the slower development of embryos, while in warmer weather, the incubation period might be slightly shorter.

The number of eggs in the nest can also affect the incubation period. Typically, mourning doves lay two eggs, but sometimes a pair may produce only one or up to three eggs. The number of eggs can influence how long they spend incubating them. If there are more eggs in the nest, it might take a bit longer for all the eggs to hatch, as the doves may need to ensure that all the embryos are sufficiently developed.

The presence of predators or disturbances around the nest can lead to variations in the incubation period. Mourning doves are sensitive to disturbances, and if they feel their nest is threatened, they may spend less time incubating their eggs, which can result in a longer incubation period overall.

The experience and behavior of the parent doves can influence the incubation period. Inexperienced doves may spend more time on the nest compared to those with more breeding experience, who may leave the nest unattended for longer periods. This can impact the overall duration of incubation. These factors collectively contribute to the variability in the incubation period of mourning doves, making it an adaptable process that is influenced by various environmental and situational factors.

Are there regional variations in incubation duration?

Yes, there can be regional variations in the incubation duration of mourning doves. These variations are primarily influenced by environmental conditions and geographical factors. For instance, mourning doves in different regions may experience variations in climate and temperature patterns. In cooler or more northern regions, the incubation period may be slightly longer due to lower temperatures, which can slow down embryo development. Conversely, in warmer, southern regions, the incubation period may be shorter as the higher temperatures can accelerate embryo development, resulting in faster hatching times.

Geographical factors such as latitude and altitude also contribute to regional variations. Mourning doves at higher altitudes or in more northern latitudes tend to experience colder and more variable weather conditions, which can extend their incubation period. In contrast, doves in lower altitudes and more temperate climates may have shorter incubation periods.

The availability of food sources can differ by region, impacting the time mourning doves spend on the nest. In regions with abundant food resources, doves may leave the nest for shorter periods, while in regions with scarcer food, they may need to leave the nest for longer periods to forage.

Local ecological factors, such as predator presence and human disturbances, can also affect incubation behavior and duration. In areas with higher predator activity or greater human interference, mourning doves may spend less time on the nest, which can lead to extended incubation periods. Therefore, regional variations in incubation duration are the result of a combination of environmental, geographical, and ecological factors that influence the behavior of mourning doves in different parts of the world.

Do both male and female mourning doves share incubation duties?

In the case of mourning doves, both the male and female share incubation duties, but the distribution of responsibilities is not entirely equal. The pair typically works together as a team to ensure the success of their nesting efforts. The female dove initially takes on the primary role of incubating the eggs, typically during daylight hours. She sits on the nest, keeping the eggs warm and protected. This allows her to dedicate her energy to the vital task of incubation.

The male dove takes the night shift. He assumes the responsibility of incubating the eggs during the nighttime hours, allowing the female to rest and feed herself. This division of labor is a practical strategy to ensure that the eggs are consistently attended to and kept at the optimal temperature for successful development.

This shared incubation duty is crucial because it enables both the male and female mourning doves to balance the demands of incubation with their need to forage and maintain their own health. The male’s contribution during the night complements the female’s daytime incubation, ensuring that the eggs are continuously cared for. This cooperative approach helps increase the chances of successfully hatching and raising their offspring, demonstrating the adaptable and effective parenting behaviors of mourning doves.

What’s the typical duration for mourning dove egg incubation?

The typical duration for mourning dove egg incubation, the period when adult doves sit on their eggs to keep them warm and facilitate hatching, is approximately 14 to 15 days. This incubation period begins once the female lays her eggs in the nest. Mourning doves usually lay two eggs in a single clutch, which means they often hatch within hours or a day of each other.

The 14 to 15-day timeframe is an average estimate, but it can vary slightly depending on environmental factors. Temperature plays a crucial role in determining the exact duration of incubation. In cooler conditions, the incubation period may be slightly longer because lower temperatures can slow down the development of the embryos. Conversely, in warmer weather, incubation may be slightly shorter due to the acceleration of embryo development.

It’s important to note that while this is the typical range, individual mourning dove pairs may experience variations in their incubation period based on local environmental conditions, the presence of predators, and the experience of the adult birds. This adaptability allows mourning doves to adjust their incubation to optimize the chances of successfully hatching their eggs, ultimately contributing to their reproductive success.


The duration of time that mourning doves sit on their eggs, nurturing and protecting them, exemplifies the remarkable commitment and care these birds exhibit in the process of reproduction. Over the course of 14 to 15 days, these elegant birds devote themselves to incubation, ensuring that the fragile eggs in their nests receive the optimal conditions necessary for hatching and the survival of their offspring.

The act of incubation is a deeply ingrained aspect of the mourning dove’s life cycle, deeply intertwined with their reproductive strategy. During this period, the female dove remains steadfast, rarely leaving the nest except for quick breaks to feed, drink, and relieve herself. This unwavering dedication ensures that the embryos within the eggs develop safely and at an appropriate rate.

How Long Do Mourning Doves Sit On Their Eggs

Mourning doves, known for their gentle and mournful cooing, are not only a beloved species for their endearing sounds but also for their ecological significance. As seed dispersers and pollinators, these birds play a critical role in maintaining biodiversity in their ecosystems. The survival of their young is of paramount importance, and the commitment to incubation is an integral part of that process.

In the end, the 14 to 15 days of incubation by mourning doves is not just a biological process but a testament to the enduring beauty of nature’s design and the profound dedication that all life forms demonstrate in the pursuit of ensuring their legacy continues in the ever-changing tapestry of the natural world.