Welcome to Dove Central


Doves in the Phoenix Area
Mourning Dove
Mourning Dove
Inca Dove
Inca Dove
White Wing Dove
White Wing Dove
Wild doves are gray. Domestic (pet) doves can be white or tan. Eurasian Collared doves are an introduced species that are not protected under federal law. They've become quite common in the Phoenix area over the past few years.

Eurasian Collared doves are an introduced species that are not protected under federal law. They've become quite common in the Phoenix area over the past few years. (Photo by Linda Jacobson of Leander, Texas)
Domestic Ring Neck Dove
Domestic Ring Neck Dove

Upon hatching, a bird's age is categorized as:

  • Hatchling (newly hatched)
  • Nestling (too young to leave the nest)
  • Fledgling (can walk around, leaves the nest and fledges to the ground
  • Juvenile (teenager/young adult)
  • Adult (fully mature)

    Dove parents are devoted parents.  Both build the nest and take turns incubating their two eggs.  When the babies hatch, both parents produce a substance in their throat/crop called “crop milk” which really isn’t milk but a rich liquid loaded in protein and fat.

    Baby doves hatch a day apart so one baby is always a little bigger than the other.

    Dove babies don’t gape (open their mouth) like songbirds.  They stick their head into the parent’s mouth and slurp up the crop milk.  When you pick up a hungry baby dove, he will probably try to poke his beak between your fingers as he’s looking for food.
    A baby dove that is this size and on the ground
    defininately needs to be rescued or renested!

    Mourning Dove Nestling

    Nestling Mourning Dove: white dot on tip
    of bill; cream colored down

    Inca Fledling
    Inca Dove fledgling showing rust brown feathers on wings

    4 Doves
    White Wing, Eurasian Collard, Mourning, Inca

    The parents will brood (sit on) the babies until they are old enough to regulate their own body temperature.  At that point, the parents stop brooding…even at night… and just come to the nest to feed the babies.
    Dove On Nest

    Baby Doves
    Baby doves hatch a day apart so one baby
    is always a little bigger than the other.

    The babies grow rapidly and leave the nest at 11 or 12 days old.  No empty nest syndrome here; if the babies won’t leave by day 13, the parents will refuse to come to the nest to feed them.  They wait patiently on a nearby branch until the kids get hungry enough to flutter down to the ground.

    Baby doves hatch a day apart so one baby is always a little bigger than the other.

    The older nestling is too young to be out of the nest.  It is just starting to feather out.

  • Fledglings: From the time they hatch, doves leave the nest at about 11 or 12 days old. When they begin to self-regulate their body temperature, the parents no longer brood them at night.

    If a baby is reluctant to leave the nest after 12 days, the parents will often keep watch nearby but refuse to feed it.   Finally, the baby will get hungry enough to leave the nest and flutter down to the ground.

    Fledgling doves may be on the ground for several days before they are able to fly back up into a tree.  This is a time when they are very vulnerable.  They have to hide in bushes  or underbrush during the night and are often caught by prowling cats.

    Because they can't fly, people often rescue them, thinking they have an injured wing.

    The young bird should be alert and walk away from people when approached. He needs bushes or underbrush in which to hide.

    Iif there is danger of preditors (cats, dogs, grackles, ants) or the bird is in an inappropriate area such as a school yard or busy shopping center, it may have to be rescued.

    When they get to the ground , they hopefully find some protective shelter like a thick bush or ground cover.  The parents continue to feed them but they don’t stay with them.

    A baby dove that leaves the nest at 11 days old will take about 4 days to become flighted.

    They’re helpless against an assortment of predators including cats, dogs, kids, ants, and grackles.  They are especially vulnerable at night.

    Mourning Dove Fledgling

    Fledgling Mourning Doves. 

    They leave the nest at 11 or 12 days old; these birds have
    probably just left the nest. 

    They should try to get away from people when approached.  If they don't, they do need to be rescued.  Fledgling doves are on the ground for 3-4 days before they can fly. Feathered out but still has some pin feathers.  Tails are short.

    Mourning Dove Juvenile
    Above: Juvenile Mourning Dove. Below: Juvenile White Wing Dove.
    Still smaller than an adult, tail is longer than a fledgling.

    White Wing Dove Juvenile

    We  receive a lot of calls about “a dove that can’t fly so it must have a broken wing”.  As stated, the young doves are on the ground for several days before they can fly.

    Inca Fledgling

    This little Inca Dove is out of the nest a day or so too early. The head is still pretty fuzzy. Note the reddish brown feather by the wing.  Inca doves have reddish brown feathers under the wing.

    Be careful where you step as this Inca Dove fledgling is
    camouflaged amid the dead leaves and gravel!

    They should walk away from people if approached.  If you can walk up to a bird and pick it up easily, then it does need to be rescued.  Also consider the surroundings.  A playground or shopping center is not exactly ideal; neither is a tree full of grackles or a few cats sitting on a nearby wall.


    The crop is a large storage pouch for food.

    To find out if the parents have been feeding the baby, gently palpate this area with your thumb and forefinger.

    A fed baby will have a fat crop stuffed with seeds or it might feel squishy.

    If you don't feel anything, the baby is likely not being fed.

    Inca, White Wing, Mourning


    Since doves and pigeons don't open their mouths for food, we feed them with a tube and syringe which is why it's best to get rescued doves to a rehabilitator. 

    This is a tricky technique that can aspirate the bird if not done correctly.  For emergencies, a mixture of Gerber or Beechnut strained chicken baby food with some baby cereal can be put in a small plastic bag.  Make a SMALL snip in the bottom corner of the bag and allow the baby to stick his beak into the hole.  He will slurp up the formula.  This is messy so make sure to wipe the baby clean after each feeding.

    For tiny babies, use the rubber end of an eye dropper and fill with chicken baby food formula or hard boiled egg mixed with a little water.  Let the baby stick his bill into the rubber end and he will eat that way. 


    Doves Tube Feeding

    Make sure the baby is WARM and alert before feeding; he cannot digest food if he is cold.  Very young birds and birds that are compromised need to be on a heat source to warm up.  A heating pad on the low setting will last all night.  Some electonics also give out heat.  If a bird feels cold or cool in the palm of your hand, he has to be on a heat source to get warm again


    Doves are one of the easiest birds to re-nest when a baby has fallen.  Doves are devoted parents and will often try to sit on and care for misplaced kids on the ground.  Of course, the ground is not a suitable place to raise a baby dove.  First, the baby will surely get eaten by predators, including ants and grackles, if it stays there.  Also, the parent birds (for their own safety)  return to a tree as soon as it starts to get dark, so the baby would be left unprotected.


    If you find a baby dove or two on the ground especially after a windstorm, check around before taking them to a rehabber. Doves only lay two eggs but there might be other nests in the area and babies that have been blown down.

    Is the bird(s) warm, alert and uninjured?  Hold the bird in the palm of your hand.  If it feels cool or cold, get it on a heat source such as a heating pad (low setting) or fill a plastic water bottle, orange juice container, milk jug, etc. with hot water from the faucet.  Put the cap back on and place it next to the bird in covered containment.  If the bird perks up after 15 minutes or so and has no other problems, he’s ready to be re-nested.

    If the bird is injured and especially if the bird has been handled by a cat, it does need to go to a rehabber as soon as possible.  The bacteria in a cat’s mouth and claws can be fatal to a bird.  Even if the cat has not punctured the bi April 28, 2014 o damage.  To a bird, cat spit should be viewed as a biological weapon of mass destruction.


    If the nest is on the ground and can be re-used, find a nearby tree (if the original nesting spot is too high) and secure the nest there.  Make sure the nest is protected from the sun.  If you cannot get the old nest, a makeshift nest can be made. Use a small, nest size basket (no laundry baskets!) lined with straw, dried grass, or the remains of the old nest inside.  Natural fiber and natural color is best.  Too large of a basket and/or bright colors can scare off the parents. Make sure the basket you make has good drainage in case it rains. 

    If you see adult doves in the area and they appear to be hanging around, they might be the parents.  Doves will continue to search for the lost nestling for the next day or two.  The babies will make a soft, whistling sounds when they are hungry and the parents will be listening for that sound.  Keep checking the nest from inside your house to make sure the parents do return.

    Below are some human-made nests that can be used to bring the nestlings off the ground, to a safe spot where the parents can continue to feed them.

    Nest from craft store

    nest from a craft store

    basket nest

    makshift basket nest with dried grass

    basket nest ladder to basket nest


    Have you found a Dove or a Pigeon?

    EVW Contact Contact East Valley Wildlife at 480-814-9339 ... EVWildlife@aol.com or facebook
           or call Liberty Wildlife at at 480-998-5550

    Last updated April 28, 2014