Allopreening Mourning Doves

Back in February, during a light snow, I noticed a few Mourning Doves loafing on the shelter frame on our back patio. Two of them must have been in the mood for love because they started allopreening – pecking and grooming each other about the head and neck. Allopreening is one of my favorite bird behaviors to observe. The last time I got to watch birds do this was back in September 2010 when I watched a pair of Eurasian Spoonbills going to town.

According to the Mourning Dove species account at the Birds of North America Online,

Allopreening, a form of appeasement behavior, occurs between mates during pair formation and consists of gentle nibbling of feathers in head and neck regions with beak; seen during nest-site selection activities, nest-building, prior to copulation, and occasionally during nest exchanges. Displacement, or ritual preening, may be exhibited when close to a mate.

I think some displacement may be going on here as well, but I didn’t see any copulation (bummer, haha!). In the second half of the clip, the bird on the left flutters its wing, a behavior I would normally associate with food-begging in either courting females or hungry juveniles. Although the birds were not feeding, I wonder if this is another common courtship behavior? From the wing-fluttering and the grooming behavior of both I am guessing the male is on the right and the female on the left.

Looking further at the Mourning Dove account on BNA, I learned two interesting terms associated with their courtship behavior. First is the charge, in which the male approaches the female with head held horizontally forward, tail pointed horizontally back, and whole body raised. And then there’s the totally cute term bow coo (which I keep reading as “boo cow”), in which the male bows head and body until head nearly touches ground [≤ 10 times], rises to very erect position, holds head forward, and utters loud coo. Have you seen these behaviors in Mourning Doves before? How about allopreening?

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One Response to Allopreening Mourning Doves

  1. Sallee says:

    Thanks for this explanation and video! Now I have a better understanding of the doves I just saw in my back yard.

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