Zenaida macroura marginella

Status:  Abundant regular spring and fall migrant statewide. Common regular breeder statewide. Uncommon regular winter visitor south and east, rare north and North Platte River Valley, rare casual elsewhere in Panhandle.

Documentation:  Specimen:  UNSM 6232, 30 May 1914 Haigler, Dundy Co.

Taxonomy:  Five subspecies are recognized (Gill and Donsker 2017), two occupying North America north of Mexico: marginella breeds in the western USA from British Columbia to south-central Mexico and east to Minnesota and Arkansas (AOU 1957), and carolinensis breeds in the eastern USA east of marginella, south to Bermuda and the Bahama Islands.

Rapp et al (1958) list marginella as the subspecies occurring in Nebraska, although Otis et al (2020) show the zone of overlap of the two subspecies to include extreme southeast Nebraska. It is likely that darker-plumaged eastern subspecies carolinensis and intergrades occur in eastern Nebraska during migration periods.

See Edit Post ‹ Birds of Nebraska – Online — WordPress ( for putative hybrids with Eurasian Collared-Dove.

Spring:  Feb 12, 13, 14 <<<>>> summer (north, west)

Only in the north and west is this species essentially absent in winter (see Winter). In those areas, spring arrival is generally in early Mar. An indication of the build-up in numbers in spring in the north were total counts by month in 2018 in Cherry Co of 9, 81, and 198 for Mar, Apr, and May respectively (James Ducey, pers. comm.).

  • High counts: 100 near Crawford, Dawes Co 18 May 2018, 83 in southwest Hall Co 12 May 2001, 80 at Lake Ogallala, Keith Co 30 Apr 2015, 80 in Kimball Co 20 May 2015, 80 in Scotts Bluff Co 22 May 2016, and 80 at Enders Reservoir, Chase Co 14 May 2017.

SummerBreeding densities are uniform over most the state, although lowest in the Panhandle (Sauer et al 2017). BBS trend analysis shows numbers have been relatively stable from 1966-2015, but with regional declines in the southeast and increases >1.5% per year in the west. One of the most numerous species reported on BBS routes, routes in the north, south, and east average 79.7 birds per route, and those in the Panhandle 50.7 birds per route.

  • Breeding Phenology:
    Nest building: 31 Mar-16 Aug
    Eggs: 21 Apr-3 Sep
    Egg-shell fragments (fresh): 29 Mar
    Fledged young: 14 Apr-24 Jul

      Mourning Doves may raise as many as five broods per year Apr-Sep in Nebraska (Traylor 1991) and up to six in Texas (Otis et al 2020). A flock of 50-75 birds near Gering, Scotts Bluff Co 26 May 2003 probably consisted mostly of newly-fledged birds.

Fall: summer <<<>>> Oct 13, 13, 13 (Panhandle, away from North Platte River Valley)
summer <<<>>> Oct 21, 21, 22 (north, west of Boone and Antelope Cos)

Juveniles from early broods may begin migration as early as Jul, but adults generally molt before departure (Traylor 1991). Jul flocks can be large: 300 were in Dawson Co 29 Jul 2001, and 245 in two flocks were in Cass Co 11 Jul 2000. Peak migration occurs around 1 Sep (see High Counts).

Departure in the Panhandle (away from the North Platte River Valley) is generally completed by mid-Oct, although there are 11 later reports through Nov and these for Dec: 8 Dec 1981 Garden Co, 23- 25 Dec 1978 Dawes Co (Rosche 1982), 28-29 Dec 1974 Dawes Co (Rosche 1982), and 31 Dec 2005 Crawford CBC.

Departure in the north is generally completed by mid-Oct, although there are eight later reports in Oct (west of Boone and Antelope Cos) during 23-31 Oct, and these later reports: 6 Nov 2013 Howard Co, and 7 Nov 2018 Knox Co.

In the southeast many remain into Dec, as indicated by CBC data; highest CBC counts are 339 at Lincoln in 1979, 303 there in 1978, and 244 there in 1970. Birds per party-hour for the east are 0.725, south 0.222, north 0.023, and west 0.038.

Most Mourning Doves banded in Nebraska move directly south as far as Mexico (see Comments).

  • High counts: 4000+ in Cherry Co 1 Sep 2007, 1000 in Omaha 24 Aug 2000, 796 at Fremont Lakes SRA, Dodge Co 26 Sep 2019, 700 in Dawes Co 5 Sep 2015, “several hundred” in south-central counties 21 Sep 2002, and “hundreds” in Franklin Co 26 Aug 2012.

WinterThere are only seven midwinter reports in the period 11 Nov-12 Feb for the Panhandle away from the North Platte River Valley, all but one in winters of 2016-2017 and 2017-2018: 13 Dec 2016 Cheyenne Co, 20 Dec 2017 Walgren Lake SRA, Sheridan Co, 28 Dec 2017 Gordon, Sheridan Co, six on 29 Dec 2017 Morrill Co, 11 Jan 1976 Dawes Co (Rosche 1982), 18 Jan 2017 Dawes Co, and two on 27 Jan 2018 Kimball Co.

In the north there are only these reports west of Boone and Antelope Cos: 24 Nov 2012 Cherry Co, 30 Nov 2020 two Brown Co, 11 Dec 1966 McPherson Co, 21 Dec 2015 four Knox Co, 28 Dec 2010 two Calamus Reservoir CBC, 28 Dec 2016 Holt Co, 28 Dec 2017 three Greeley Co, 28 Dec 2020 Garfield Co, 31 Dec 2002 Howard Co, 1 Jan 1955 Logan Co, 12 Jan 2017 Knox Co, and 26 Jan 2012 Whitman, Grant Co.

Comments: From 2003 through 2019, 20,101 Mourning Doves of all ages were banded in Nebraska, with 552 recoveries (Fowler 2020). Of these 552 recoveries, 421 were in Nebraska, and 116 in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Mexico. Only six were recovered elsewhere, including one in Guatemala. A summary of hatch year Mourning Doves banded in Nebraska found that 43.6% were recovered in Texas and 44.4% in Mexico (Traylor 1991).


BBS: Breeding Bird Survey
CBC: Christmas Bird Count
UNSM: University of Nebraska State Museum

Literature Cited

American Ornithologists’ Union [AOU]. 1957. The AOU Check-list of North American birds, 5th ed.  Port City Press, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

Fowler, E. 2020. Nebraskaland Magazine, Nov 2020. Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Lincoln, Nebraska.

Gill, F., and D. Donsker (Eds). 2017. IOC World Bird List (v 7.3), accessed 30 January 2018.

Otis, D.L., J.H. Schulz, D. Miller, R.E. Mirarchi, and T.S. Baskett. 2020. Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (A. F. Poole, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.

Rapp, W.F. Jr., J.L.C. Rapp, H.E. Baumgarten, and R.A. Moser. 1958. Revised checklist of Nebraska birds.  Occasional Papers 5, Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union. Crete,  Nebraska, USA.

Rosche, R.C. 1982. Birds of northwestern Nebraska and southwestern South Dakota, an annotated checklist. Cottonwood Press, Crawford, Nebraska, USA.

Sauer, J.R., D.K. Niven, J.E. Hines, D.J. Ziolkowski, Jr, K.L. Pardieck, J.E. Fallon, and W.A. Link. 2017.  The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966 – 2015 (Nebraska). Version 2.07. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, Maryland, USA.

Traylor, S. 1991. Weather keeps dove numbers up for opener. Omaha World Herald, 29 Aug 1991.

Recommended Citation

Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen.  2021.  Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura). In Birds of Nebraska — Online.

Birds of Nebraska – Online

Updated 14 Mar 2021