Do Mourning Doves Eat at Bird Feeders?

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With their soft, earth toned feathers and gentle coo-ing song, many of us are familiar with the mourning dove. Mourning doves are common birds and can be found throughout the United States. You probably see them in the park or on the ground, and may have wondered, do mourning doves eat at bird feeders? 

Mourning doves will not typically eat seed from a bird feeder, unless the feeder used is an open tray or platform.

What do mourning doves eat?

Mourning doves are primarily seed eaters, and seeds make up about 99% of their diet.  In the wild, this mostly includes:

  • wild grass seeds
  • weed seeds
  • herb seeds
  • cultivated grains

Less commonly mourning doves may be seen eating:

  • snails
  • berries
two mourning doves on a platform feeder
Two mourning doves eating seeds from my platform feeder | image by birdfeederhub.com

What birdseed do mourning doves eat?

Since mourning doves eat seeds and grains, it’s hard to go wrong with most bird seeds or seed blends. Since they mainly forage for seeds and grains, smaller seeds tend to be best. Or if the seed / nut is large, make sure what you are offering is broken into smaller pieces.

The best bird seed to feed to mourning doves tends to be milo, millet, safflower and cracked corn. They will also sometimes eat nyjer, sorghum and oats. 

Will mourning doves eat sunflower? 

Sunflower is probably one of the most common backyard seeds used in feeders, so you may be wondering if doves will eat it. Yes, mourning doves will eat sunflower, but make sure you choose black oil or shelled.

The beaks of these doves are not as thick as some other birds, and they will not be able to crack the shell of the larger sunflower seeds, such as the striped sunflower. Black oil sunflower will work fine for doves, or even better hulled sunflower where the shell has already been removed.   

Will mourning doves eat peanuts?

Another popular backyard offering is peanuts, since many birds love them. Mourning doves will eat peanuts, but they should be broken into small pieces. Make sure you don’t offer peanuts still in the shell. Whole peanuts, or even halved peanuts are probably still too big. Stick to peanut pieces. 

Things mourning doves probably won’t eat

As we mentioned above, the beak of the mourning dove isn’t made for tough shells or nuts. So peanuts in the shell, whole peanuts, striped sunflower, walnuts, acorns or other large nuts will not be appealing to doves. 

Suet typically is not a food mourning doves will eat. They won’t cling to suet feeders and don’t have a good beak for breaking off suet pieces. Perhaps if you crumbled up the suet into small bits and scattered it on the ground, they may eat some. 

Since mourning doves only occasionally eat berries or insects, they are usually not interested in these foods at the feeder. Pieces of dried fruit or mealworms may possibly be eaten, but it would be uncommon for doves to be attracted to these foods. 

What bird feeders are best for mourning doves?

Mourning doves are mainly ground feeders in the wild. They will forage for food in open spaces and fields. You may have noticed them eating spilt seed from the ground beneath your bird feeders. This is the most common place you will see mourning doves around your bird feeders. 

Mourning doves are larger than many feeder birds, with a rounded body and long tail. Their legs were made for comfortably walking around on the ground.

Compared to other birds you see at your feeder, they just can’t maneuver as well, aren’t as good at perching on small objects, and are frankly clumsy in tight spaces. 

For these reasons, mourning doves won’t visit tube feeders, cage feeders, or mesh feeders that require the birds to cling. The best bird feeders for mourning doves are platform feeders and ground feeders. They may also use hoppers that provide a large perch. These allow the doves plenty of space for their body and more solid footing.

Or, to keep it really simple, just scatter seed on the ground and let the doves feed as they would in the wild. 

Summary

Mourning doves are very likely to be attracted to your bird feeders, although you are most likely to see them on the ground picking up the seeds other birds have spilled.

They eat a wide variety of bird seed, as long as the pieces are small and there aren’t any hard shells to crack. Mourning doves will use platform feeders or anything with a very large perch, but will avoid tube feeders or hoppers with a small perch. 

About Melanie

Melanie has been a birding hobbyist for years and loves feeding and photographing birds of all types.