- Minnesota Breeding Bird Distribution
- Breeding Habitat
- Population Abundance
- Literature Cited
A regular breeding resident and migrant found statewide; a regular species during the winter months throughout the state but most common in the Twin Cities metropolitan region and southeastern Minnesota. The Mourning Dove was a very abundant species during the Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas (MNBBA).
Found throughout much of North America, the Mourning Dove’s breeding range extends from the southern regions of the central Canadian provinces, east to the Maritime Provinces, south across the entire United States, and farther south into Central America. It is a year-round resident throughout most of its range with the exception of the southern Canadian provinces from British Columbia east to Quebec and through the northern Great Plains and Upper Midwest. Within North America it reaches some of its highest breeding densities in the Great Plains, the upper midwestern states of Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, and in the southeastern states (Figure 1).
A game species, the Mourning Dove has been assigned a Continental Concern Score of 6/20 by Partners in Flight.
Resident to long-distance migrant; most northern populations migrate. Birds in the north-central states winter from Texas and the Gulf Coast states south into Mexico and Central America.
A ground forager feeding almost entirely on the small seeds of cultivated grains as well as many grasses and forbs.
A loose platform of twigs placed in a tree or shrub.
The Mourning Dove has always been recognized as a common and abundant summer resident throughout Minnesota, with the exception of the far northeastern and north-central counties, where it is uncommon. When Roberts wrote his treatise on the birds of Minnesota in 1932, he noted that the Mourning Dove was one of the few birds in the state that had increased in abundance. “It was always common but it is now abundant and getting more so each year. With the clearing and the settling of the northern forests it has appeared in many localities where it was formerly absent.” He speculated that a decrease in the number of predatory hawks and owls due to persecution also may have contributed to the dove’s improved status. Mourning Dove nests are relatively easy to find. Roberts documented nesting in 12 counties, ranging from Rock, Pipestone, and Jackson in the southwest, east to Waseca and Goodhue, north to the east-central counties of McLeod, Hennepin, Anoka, Isanti, and Sherburne, and then northwest to Polk and Kittson.
Little changed regarding the dove’s status in the following years. Both Green and Janssen (1975) and Janssen (1987) noted the species was absent from Cook and Lake Counties and the extensively forested portions of Itasca, Koochiching, and St. Louis Counties. It reached its greatest abundance in the southern and western agricultural regions of the state. Janssen (1987) included a map delineating 48 counties where nesting had been confirmed since 1970. Hertzel and Janssen (1998) added another 11 counties to the map, including St. Louis County. The Minnesota Biological Survey further confirmed the species’ common occurrence outside of the Laurentian Mixed Forest Province, where it was sparsely distributed. Although the Mourning Dove was uncommon in the northern forest, numerous locations were documented in the surveyed portions of Itasca and St. Louis Counties as well as one record in northern Lake County (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources 2016).
During the MNBBA, observers reported a total of 6,125 Mourning Dove records in 60.9% (2,948/4,842) of the surveyed atlas blocks and in 75.9% (1,773/2,337) of the priority blocks. Breeding evidence was documented in 493 blocks (Figures 2 and 3; Table 1). Although least abundant in the northern and eastern regions of the Laurentian Mixed Forest Province, the birds were observed in all 87 Minnesota counties. Breeding evidence was gathered from 78 counties; 8 of the 9 counties where breeding was not documented were in northeastern and north-central Minnesota. Twenty of the counties with confirmed breeding were additions to the list published in 1998 by Hertzel and Janssen.
The Minnesota predicted probability map emphasizes the Mourning Dove’s abundance and widespread distribution throughout the Eastern Broadleaf Forest, Prairie Parkland, and Tallgrass Aspen Parklands Provinces (Figure 4). In the Laurentian Mixed Forest Province, it is predicted to be most abundant in areas of urban and industrial development, small towns, and agricultural lands, for example, in Duluth and along the Iron Range. Statewide some of the highest densities are predicted in scattered areas throughout the Prairie Parkland Province.
Biologists believe Mourning Doves were present prior to European settlement in scattered locations across much of the United States and southern Canada (Otis et al. 2008). As human settlement progressed to the north and west, their numbers increased, and their range expanded even farther, including throughout New England and across southern Canada. Although clearing the eastern deciduous forest undoubtedly created extensive suitable habitat for doves, the two most important factors that favored the species were plowing the central grasslands for agriculture and introducing irrigation in the central and western states for cereal production (Tacha and Braun 1994).
The MNBBA documented that the Mourning Dove remains least abundant in northeastern and far north-central Minnesota, but it clearly has slowly expanded its distribution and abundance in this region over the past 50 to 100 years. Similar changes have been noted in other states in the Upper Midwest. Michigan, for example, documented a significant increase in the number of Mourning Dove detections in the Upper Peninsula between their first atlas (1983–1988) and second atlas (2002–2008). The percentage of townships recording doves nearly doubled, from 36% to 68% (Chartier et al. 2013). Ontario also witnessed “a significant northward shift” in the species’ range in the 20 years between their first (1981–1985) and second atlas (2001–2005; Cadman et al. 2007).
*Note that the definition of confirmed nesting of a species is different for Breeding Bird Atlas projects, including the definition used by the Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas, compared with a more restrictive definition used by the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union. For details see the Data Methods Section.