Mourning Doves vs Pigeons


One morning, I was pleasantly surprised to hear the distinctive sounds of a mourning dove cooing in the back of my building, near my bedroom window.  For a long time, their appearance remained a mystery to me.   Weeks later, for a fleeting moment, I caught sight of a dove resting on the fire escape, also located in the back of my building.  Alerted to my presence, it flew away before I could admire it.



I first learned about the mourning dove from Abe Lincoln’s blog.  However, I’d never seen a mourning dove in the city, much less near my apartment building.  I was excited!  Interestingly enough, no other birds hang out in the back of my building.  It’s normally very quiet with the exception of the punctuated sounds of the mourning doves.




I normally feed pigeons, sparrows, starlings on the sidewalks and at the park.   Now, I wanted to feed the mourning doves.  I got a bird feeder and placed it on my window sill.


For an entire year, the doves did not approach it.   A whole year!  Under the change of climate, soon, the roof fell off the feeder, as did the sides.  The food turned rotten.  I decided to give up.  I removed the food and decided to remove the feeder from the window sill.  That’s when I noticed two doves tentatively pecking at the remains in the feeder.  When I moved closer to the window, they stopped eating, looked into my room and took off!



The next day, I bought more food and filled the broken feeder.  The next day, the doves returned.  They were very careful and would always fly away at the slightest sound that came from my room.  I had to tip toe around my own bedroom, for Pete’s sake!  Tip toe!



After that, the doves would come and go.  They’d sit on the fire escape of the building across from mine and watched the feeder on my window sill.  They’d watch.   Then they started to visit the feeder more frequently.   They never really hung around.   They’d come, eat, fly away.   Few hours later, they’d return.   Do the same.   Morning, afternoon and evening.



This lasted for a month.  Soon they got used to the sounds in my room.  They still flew away when I approached the window.  However they stopped getting so spooked when they heard sounds coming from my bedroom, like the telephone ringing, the T.V.,  or my voice.   Progress! 



I enjoyed watching the doves.   I started to distinguish the adults from the babies.  It was much more fun than watching my fave reality T.V. shows.   I enjoyed watching them court each other.  I enjoyed watching them bop their heads as they fed; I enjoyed watching the play around the feeder; I enjoyed watching them fly back and forth.  I enjoyed watching them feed, take a break, take off and return.  I got used to hearing the whistling/whirling sound their flapping wings made.   They never finished the food in the feeder.  I enjoyed watching them play with each other.  I was having fun.



Then one day, I noticed a pigeon sitting on the rooftop of the building across from my window.  It sat there and watched the activities at my window for about a week.  It didn’t make a move.   It watched the empty feeder, it watched the doves come and go from the feeder; it watched me open and close my window.  It watched.   It didn’t make a move – until a week later.  Yikes!   The pigeon decided to come for a closer look and flew over to my window sill. 



It’s one thing to feed the doves – they’re quiet, cleaner, don’t hang around and don’t leave a mess.  The pigeons on the other hand are another story.   I don’t mind feeding the pigeons and I do so on the sidewalks and at the park.  I used to feed them at work, too.   However, I knew I couldn’t feed them from my window sill.  They’d make a mess and soon the neighbors would complain, they’d destroy the building façade and I’d hear from the landlord.  Something I didn’t want to happen. 



I tried to drive the pigeon away to no avail.  It kept returning.  I got tired and watched it eat ALL the food in the feeder.  It didn’t leave a speck of food.  Only then did it leave.  Another time, I saw the pigeon attack the dove at the feeder.   It actually tore feathers from the dove’s breasts.  I was mortified!





Soon the pigeon scout brought a date to the feeder and later some friends.   When the pigeons were around the doves would disappear.   This was getting ridiculous.   Disappointed and frustrated, I finally decided to remove the feeder.


It broke my heart to see the mourning doves returning day after day for food, just to find nothing.   After a week, when I didn’t see any more pigeons, I broke down and decided to put a little food out for the doves.  As soon as I did that, the pigeons appeared on my window sill.    Aggh!!! 




So, now I’m unsure of what to do.  I finally see the elusive doves and I can’t feed them without attracting the pigeons.   Pigeons, I love ya, but not on my window sill.  Go back to the sidewalks.  I’ll gladly feed you there!


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24 Responses

  1. Mourning doves are such pretty birds, and their “mournful” song is lovely, I think… Where I grew up there were lots of them. I recall most morning waking
    to hearing their song. And yes, less mess than pigeons. ;o) I like how the dove couples look after each other… very sweet. Happy Days, Paz ((HUGS))

    June 18, 2012 at 9:12 am


      Hi Tracy: I enjoy hearing their song. I also enjoyed the dove couples. Happy Days to you, too!

      Paz xoxo

      June 18, 2012 at 10:25 pm

  2. I’m sorry the pigeons scared away your beautiful doves, but I am glad you got these wonderful photos. I love the one where it looks like they’re kissing. :)

    Maybe one of your readers here will have an idea of how to keep the pigeons away. Your photos of them at the end made me smile because I could almost
    hear the “Darth Vader” music to go along with. :)

    June 18, 2012 at 6:36 pm


      Ande: ROFLOL! I almost wrote: “Cue Darth Vader Music* when I started writing about the pigeon scout. So funny that you
      mention that. Yes, if someone can tell me about a miracle solution, I’d be happy.


      June 18, 2012 at 10:27 pm

  3. These photos are so wonderful, Paz, and they may just have to be your consolation if you don’t want pigeons on your window sill. In my experience, once
    the pigeons find a feed source, they will always come back. And as you have experienced already, they are not nice about it. I’m so sorry that your sweet
    doves, and you, have to be the ones to suffer for it.

    June 18, 2012 at 7:04 pm


      Christine: *sigh* You’re right: The pigeons AND the doves still pay a visit to my window sill. I couldn’t help but put a little food
      out for the doves, which means that the pigeons will not go away. *deep sigh*


      June 18, 2012 at 10:31 pm

  4. Love the photos and I love the sounds of the mourning doves.
    Who knew that pigeons were such predators?

    June 22, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    • Hi Mary: Yeah, who knew. I suppose, they’re just trying to survive, too.


      June 25, 2012 at 2:08 am

  5. Gosh, what a New york story.
    Wish the damn pigeons could read.
    You could put up a notice.”MOURNING DOVE FEEDING STATION”

    Pigeons are greedy and pesky and quite fun
    doves are prettier.
    You got some super photos.

    hope to see you soon


    June 23, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    • Hi Elizabeth: Yeah, I wish those damn pigeons could read. *sigh*

      See you soon!

      Paz xox

      June 25, 2012 at 2:09 am


    Wow great shots! I’m a little late in commenting, sorry! Thanks so much, your pictures ease my homesickness so much. I can never thank you enough for keeping me connected with my home.

    August 21, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    • Hi Joann! Thanks, always, for stopping by!


      August 21, 2012 at 11:09 pm

  7. Thanks for the link, Paz.
    Loved your photos and the story about your winged friends. I have five bird feeders here in Texas and love the doves, too. Wish I could attract some Inca doves. They’re about half the size of the mourning variety. We had them at Crooked Pine Ranch. Thankfully, no pidgeons, except for an occasional homing type that needs to rest for a few hours before continuing on its trek.

    You’re a good soul!

    September 12, 2012 at 1:02 pm


      Hi Helen: Five bird feeders! I’d love to have that! I would also love to see some Inca doves visit my window sill!
      And I think it’s nice that your feeders are there for the homing pigeons. That’s a good thing. :-) Thanks for stopping by, Helen.

      Paz xoxo

      November 5, 2012 at 9:24 pm

  8. Oh, Paz I don’t know how to break it to you but once you feed pigeons, they NEVER leave. I started out feeding one mourning dove a few years ago. Other mourning doves joined him and soon pigeons take over. The other day, a red tailed hawk grabbed a big pigeon – here’s the video to prove it

    My point is, after the hawk let him go, that pigeon STILL comes here looking for food!!! If I were him and got away from a red tail hawk, I would avoid the place I got caught like the plague!!

    March 20, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    • Hi Maria: Welcome. Yes, I’ve learned that the pigeons won’t leave. They come every day. Ugh! But so do the mourning doves. The other day, I could have sworn I saw a hawk on the building across. Perhaps that’s why all the other birds had disappeared? Thanks for the video link. Incredible to see that hawk at the window. Even more incredible to see the fate of the pigeon at the end. Awesome ending! It’s an experience watching nature outside my window in the city. :-)

      March 20, 2013 at 7:19 pm


    Wild Birds Unlimited has a bird feeder that you can put attachments on to keep out larger birds. Have one myself. They also have a wild bird feed that is all seed, and leaves no mess (such as husks) as the birds eat it. Although, now that the pigeons know where food is, they still might keep the doves away.

    September 9, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    • Thanks for the tip, Yvette. I’ll check them out!

      September 11, 2013 at 9:19 am

  10. andrea

    I recently moved from the 13th floor to the third in a large, rambing apartment building; I gained a bit more space, but lost my friends – the mourning doves who visited the fire escape daily from March through October. I would feed them millet, but it wasn’t all about the cuisine for them – they seemed to like to hang out, rest and socialize for a spell. I’d do my stupid mourning dove imitation, they’d cock their heads at me: It was a relationship. Now my windows face the front of the building … and I’ve been wondering how I might attract them back … (“yoo hoo – hoo – hoo … hey … you guys! I’m here! remember me? the crazy lady with the millet, the stupid birdcall, and the buckweat groats?”) Thanks for giving me some hope, and a few ideas; on the other hand, I sense that they don’t like to roost low. There is a nice ginkgo tree right outside my window – lots of sparrows. Any further tips would be most welcome.


    December 29, 2013 at 8:45 pm

    • Hi Andrea: I don’t know much about birds and not sure I have any good tips for you, except to say that you should be patient and put food out. They will eventually find you. It took a whole year before the doves came to my window. They didn’t come immediately. Good luck!

      December 31, 2013 at 7:19 pm

  11. Thanks for the kind encouragement, Paz! Your photos are wonderful, by the way; they really capture the spirit of relating to and with these birds. Happy New Year to you! Happy New Year to us all!


    December 31, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    • Thanks, Andrea, for your generous words! Let us know when the doves come back. They will find you. :-)
      ~ Paz

      January 6, 2014 at 4:52 am

  12. Christi

    thank you for your posts. am starting feeding the birds and feel the mourning doves are crowding out the small birds here in TX. But got a new appreciation of them from your post and all animals are God’s creatures.

    July 4, 2014 at 10:29 pm

    • Thanks for your comment, Christi. Yes, all animals are God’s creatures. And we all have to eat. :-) Good luck and have fun feeding the birds.


      July 14, 2014 at 1:16 am

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