Listening to Doves

Squatter Pigeon, Australia

Emerald Spotted Wood Dove, Zambia, Africa

Pied Imperial Pigeon, Australia

If you have ever listened to a dove, you know the sweet, gentle voice of peace. Seems like right now is a good time to relax into the peace of doves.


The bird that is classically associated with peace for centuries, doves and pigeons formย  the family Columbidae. There are over 300 worldwide species. They liveย  everywhere except in extreme temperatures.


The terms “dove” and “pigeon” are often used interchangeably. Usually doves are smaller, and pigeons larger, but there are many scientific distinctions.


More information Columbidae


In North America, one of our most common doves is the mourning dove. It has several soft cooing vocalizations that add a mellow, repetitive coo-woo-woo to the air.


Mourning Dove, California

Mourning Dove Vocalization

They also have a soft, whistling wingbeat sound.

Mourning Dove Wingbeat Sound

So many times friends or co-workers have excitedly told me they heard an owl, only to find after we investigated further, that they were hearing a mourning dove. It is a muted sound, steady, with a slow, repeating call, and much like an owl.


Where I live in Northern California, we have a forest dove, the band-tailed pigeon. They do not have noticeable vocalizations, but the sanguine sight of their 25+ flocks synchronistically cruising over our valley is equally as calming.

Band-tailed Pigeon pair, California

Perched flock of band-tailed pigeons, California


The pigeons we see in cities, the domestic pigeon, are called rock doves. Sit on a bench in a city plaza and you can hear their cooing, like purring; the sun highlights their iridescent features.

Rock Dove visiting the San Francisco Hyatt


My favorite fruit dove, the Wompoo Fruit Dove, can be found hundreds of feet up in the Australian rainforest canopy eating figs and other fruit. I fell in love with its soothing wom-pooooo call.


Impossible to photograph, so high up, I give you an audio glimpse instead.

Woompoo Fruit Dove Vocalization


Another Australian rainforest dove.

Emerald Dove, Australia


Across the Pacific Ocean in Hawaii, the tender dove calls seamlessly blend into the fragrant air and tropical breezes.

Spotted Dove, Maui

Spotted Dove Vocalization

Zebra Dove Vocalization

We need more docile dove sounds in this world, and fortunately, they’re everywhere.


Written by Jet Eliot.

Photos by Athena Alexander.

White Rock Dove pair, Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, Oahu


89 thoughts on “Listening to Doves

    • I’m sure the mourning doves who visit your window bring great joy, Sherry. I remember photos you have shared. Many thanks for your visit today, always a pleasure to “see” you.

    • I saw that today our posts were side-by-side on the Reader, Janet, that’s fun. So wonderful to hear that you love everything about doves, my friend. This does not surprise me. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks so much for your visit, and have a wonderful weekend, painting and creating.

    • I have a big smile on my face, Jill, at the grandmotherly reminder you have of cooing mourning doves…so very sweet. Many thanks, my writing friend, for your words.

  1. I’m listening to my doves right now. I’m a bit surprised — they usually coo in the evening rather than the morning — but it’s cooler and less humid today, so they might simply be expressing their happiness. This is a wonderful post; I had no idea there were so many doves!

    • Oh how I loved hearing that you were hearing doves just as you were reading this post, Linda. Several times in the writing of this composition I heard them too. And I agree, it is surprising to learn how many hundreds of different species of doves we have on this planet. Warm thanks, as always.

  2. Thanks for sharing such beautiful thoughts and images, Jet, and particularly the gentle reminder, “Seems like right now is a good time to relax into the peace of doves.”

    • Your comment was a joy, Mike. I’m glad you enjoyed the thoughts and images I presented here. So much unrest in these times, a little peace can go a long way. My warmest thanks for your visit and words.

  3. This is wonderful, thank you for the information, Jet! I didn’t know there are so many variations or specie of Dove. The Rock Dove is common around here, the sounds of the Mourning Dove are sweet.

  4. Thanks for this beautiful, calming post, Jet. I like the sound of doves. Even their faces seem to have a gentle expression. I have a few. Last spring (when I first moved here) I had a lot of them, and all sorts of finches and thrushes. Then come fall, the pigeons took over. This year it’s still the pigeons… loud and messy. They are kind of fun to watch, but I miss the other birds. I still see a humming bird now and then. They zip around too fast for pigeons to bother them. ๐Ÿ™‚ Hugs on the wing.

    • Nice to hear about your birds, Teagan. If you are talking about a feeder you host, there are many ways to get feeders equipped for just the songbirds, because the pigeons can and will take over unless you tailor to the small birds. Hugs back to you.

  5. I believe I have often thought I was hearing an owl as well. Fascinating to hear the various calls and soothing too. In these challenging times I think getting out and listening to the sounds of nature, even if one can’t identify them, is good for the mind and body. Unplugging from media and taking in nature’s soothing audio soundtrack has been very helpful to me.
    Thank you for this lovely and quieting post.

    • Yes, I think many of us agree with you on using this lockdown time to listen to the sounds and joys of nature, Sue. I’m glad you found today’s post quieting and lovely, and appreciate your warm words.

  6. Kudos on the timing for this one. Our neighbors are big bird feeders, so doves are a daily affair in my yard. I could do without the squawking of those invasive Asian doves that seem to be everywhere now. Did you know that the dodo bird was a kind of pigeon?

    • My guess is you are referring to the Eurasian Collared Dove, Craig, that’s in your neighbor’s yard. They have slowly made their way across the U.S. They first came to Florida in the mid-1970s and have continued proliferating over the decades. We have them in No. Calif., but they haven’t made it up to our mountaintop yet. Yes, interesting that the dodo bird was a pigeon. They were such cool birds, I can easily see one becoming a character in one of your stories. Many thanks.

  7. How exciting to have so many different types of Doves! The first one the Squatted reminds of a Wood Duck female with the eye markings. The songs are lovely. We have Mourning and Collared here where I live now I enjoy listening to them and watching them rest on the fence.

  8. learning so much from you, Jet! thank you for another delightful and interesting post. love to hear their different sounds. beautiful photographs as always! wishing you safe and happy weekend! ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. I didn’t realize there were that many kinds of doves and pigeons. We have the band-tailed pigeons, domestic pigeons (rock doves), and (in the interior of BC) the mourning dove. One dove that has moved into our area in the last few years is the European collared dove. It seems to be making its way north and west from the Bahamas. Do you have it in California?

    • Yes, we have the Eurasian Collared Dove in California now, Anneli. You’re right, they escaped captivity from the Bahamas in the mid-1970s and came to Florida and have been moving westward ever since. Wherever I go birdwatching in the U.S., I always listen for that dove, noting where they have taken up residence. We don’t have a photo of one. They haven’t made it up to our mountaintop yet, I’ve only seen them in town. Glad to know you have the band-tailed pigeon. Always a pleasure….

  10. I love the sound of mourning Doves. We have quite a few that hang out around our RV Park in Phoenix and they bring that nature feel in a less than nature enviornment. Now that I’m back in WI, I’m listening to Robins and a whole new variety of chirping โ€ฆ BUT my all time fave sound remains the Loon ๐Ÿ˜Š

    • Oh to be in WI in June…you lucky duck, with all the warblers nesting and bird species starting their new season. And so much green grass and deciduous trees everywhere in vibrancy. I, too, love the sound of the loon. Warm thanks for your visit today, Ingrid, and have a great time with your family in WI.

  11. Thanks for this calm piece, Jet, just the thing. The soothing cooing works wonders…
    The most striking thing for us this week, now weโ€™re back on the coast, is the volume of birdsong weโ€™re hearing. The champions right now must be the white crowned sparrows – their song is the most vocal on our current early morning dog walks. We feel less socially isolated with the sparrows in full voice!
    Thanks again, and have a great weekend!

    • Always wonderful to hear from you, pc. And I’m excited for you to be receiving the blessing of the white-crowned sparrows. The song of this bird is one of the most studied, because, interestingly, they have a wide variety of dialects among the species. I do so LOVE to hear them, and am glad to know you are hearing them too. I hope they bring peace to you, my friend.

  12. I see a lot of Mourning Doves on and around my bird feeders. Unfortunately, they are the most common prey of our hawk population. I am always sad to see their feather remains in our yard and also for the dove left alone. It does make me happy to see them in pairs, and hope he/she finds a new partner.

    • Yes, we too find it sad to find the mourning dove feather remains, cj. They are a big bird, a meaty prize, and they do not have the ability to lift off quickly. Thanks for stopping by.

  13. Beautiful post, Jet. We do need to hear the voice of peace in this world, now more than ever. “May there be peace and may it begin with me.” โค
    btw, yesterday I sent you an email to the address listed here, did you get it?

    • Hi Eliza. I’m glad you enjoyed the dove post today, thank you. I’m sorry, I did not receive your email, I just checked. I’m working from my phone a lot more in these laid-up days, and I probably accidentally deleted it. Would you mind re-sending it and I will be sure to respond. Thanks for asking here.

    • Light-winged and sacred — definitely a good definition of poetry and doves, my friend. Always a true pleasure to receive your lovely words, Walt. Thanks so much.

  14. This had me laughing, Jet. ” If you have ever listened to a dove, you know the sweet, gentle voice of peace. Seems like right now is a good time to relax into the peace of doves.” We have so many mourning doves around here that we hear them all the time and they are quite noisy, although not in the strident way of the long-tailed grackles. I guess “noisy” might not be quite the right word, but their gentle sounds are both persistent and constant.

    I like the white doves in the last photo. My husband doesn’t appreciate pigeons, calling them dirty birds. I’d classify geese in that category as well. ๐Ÿ™‚


  15. Pigeons and doves are strong birds that have gone through many centuries being hunted by humans as well as predator animals. And, they have survived as species. They are resilient also adaptive to any habitat. Great post, my friend. Take care. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Yes, I agree, HJ. Doves and pigeons have been over-hunted to extinction, and also resilient and adaptive. Gentle sounds and resilient — a good combination of characteristics to celebrate during these times. Sending lots of thanks and warm wishes to you, HJ.

  16. Always loved the sound of the morning doves. First bird I really liked and could identify easily. I always look for them when we travel

    • I can’t say as I have ever seen doves being aggressive, but I guess there’s different degrees of aggressiveness. They can be pushy at the feeder, true. Glad you like the calls of the doves, Michael Stephen.

  17. Enjoyed the peaceful beauty you captured with your words and photos! Wonderful selection of pigeons and doves, especially the striking emerald dove. Last year we had a large group of mourning doves visiting, but right now we are enjoying the cooing of a pair that visit every day.

    • Some years are more conducive to a particular species than others, so probably last year featured more accommodating weather/food than this year, ACI, for your mourning doves. I know how diligently you keep up your feeders and backyard. I’m glad you’re enjoying the cooing pair and wish you many more days of peace with them. Thanks so very much for your visit and contribution.

    • You live in the land where there are more doves and pigeons than I have ever seen on one continent, Lloyd. I read that doves and pigeons are thought to have first evolved in Australiasia, which doesn’t surprise me. Thanks for your lovely comment and visit, my friend.

  18. Lovely post. Enjoyed all the different vocalizations. And I’d never thought of listening for the wingbeats! Beautiful! That wompoo is great, but the old familiar mourning dove is my favorite.

    • We didn’t even have a photo of our local mourning dove, so Athena went out this week to capture some, as I knew my readers would share their thoughts on the beauties of the mourning dove. Wonderful to hear that your favorite dove is the mourning, Nan. And as always, thanks so much for your visit and endless support.

    • I bet if you were to visit Australia, Frank, your camera would be all over their pigeons. Your photos are always a joy. Thanks so much for your comment and visit, my friend.

  19. Mourning doves have always had such soft, soothing sounds. I’ve noticed when they coo that the other birds are quiet. I don’t know why and will have to listen to see if that’s really true or if I’m just focused on the doves.

  20. Lovely comment, Kristie, thank you. I think it’s probably that you’re focusing on the dove sound…and what a blissful thing to focus in. Many thanks for your visit.

  21. Visiting you is always an education. I didn’t know that North American pigeons were called Rock Doves. I knew they were dove-ish, for sure. It’s awesome that you made available the many sounds. They all have a cute, little hollow sound, in my opinion. I’ve been thinking about sprinkling in stories of a few animals in my life within a future post, along with the lizard-dom. I knew a special Rock Dove : ) that my mom rescued. When I create that post, do you mind if I insert a tiny link to this particular post?

  22. I’ve always been confused by the dove/pigeon thing.
    However, I have come to know the beautiful mourning dove.
    I adore pigeons….. poo and all. Sigh
    Nonetheless I love the cooing, and I have always thought of it akin to cats purring.
    So, there was a group of pigeons nibbling gravel in a parking lot up the street.
    One of them was a bit smaller, and it was pure snow white. At first I thought; why is there a small chicken in with the pigeons? Now I’m wondering if it was a dove? xo

  23. They are such calming birds in the wild and well chosen for a symbol of peace. I admit, I do get a little antsy when they swarm around someone feeding them in a city. The Emerald Dove is beautiful- great shot by Athena. Very enjoyable post, Jet. Peace. โ˜ฎ๏ธ

  24. It seems that quite a few people who heard the phrase “mourning dove” interpreted it as the identically pronounced “morning dove.” An internet search turns up a lot of hits for the latter. Some of them really are intended to mean ‘a dove in the morning,’ while others are mistakes.

  25. We’ve had some band-tailed visitors here occasionally. They are seemingly the most skittish of all the birds that come to the feeder. Your post also reminded me of the time when I bought the previous house I lived in. I remember the woman selling it asking me if I wanted to ‘keep’ the mourning doves she had in an aviary. I declined, little realizing at the time that she simply let the doves loose. They took up residence in the trees and on the power lines nearby driving one of my neighbors batty. Funny how someone (Sylvia for example) finds their cooing soothing, while I tend to agree with the neighbor that their constant, monotonous calls can get a bit annoying after awhile. Takes all kinds, don’t it? ๐Ÿ˜€

  26. Not everyone likes these birds or any of their relations, nor the sounds they make. But I am with you on this one Jet – I really like them and the gentle background notes and rhythms they give to a natural soundscape. Some of these pics show real beauties ๐Ÿ˜Š

    • I thought of you often while writing this post, Alastair, because I spent a lot of time at xeno-canto listening to bird recordings and reading the sound technician’s notes. There is so much that goes into sound recording, I appreciate your unique artistry. Even your words here, about the rhythms doves and pigeons give to a natural soundscape, show your well-crafted gift for recording. Thanks so very much…always a joy.

  27. Oh my! Thankyou, thankyou for the dove sounds!!
    Every morning, I used to hear the sounds of doves when I lived in Hawaii, Oahu.
    So peaceful and calm. I loved it!
    I thought they were all ‘Mourning Doves’ (shows how much I do not know about birds),
    But, I just listened to the “Spotted Dove” vocalization that you posted–and that’s it! That’s it!
    Immediately made me feel like I was back on the islands again. Wonderful memory.
    On the other hand, the pigeons in downtown Waikiki used to make me sad. They loved the convenience of the fast food that was dropping on the ground at the tables outside of fast food restaurants, so they were quick to eat it. Unfortunately, it really wasn’t healthy for them at all. I have a photo of one of those fat pigeons–with bags under its eyes (probably from all of the salt). Made me wonder what this type of food does to people if eaten on a fairly steady basis. Take a look at this sad-looking pigeon:

    • Your comment about the spotted dove was a joy, Mary, because you reiterated how the dove sound brings back “place” so readily. Whenever I step off the plane on the Big Island, the airport is not enclosed, so I usually hear the spotted dove while still waiting for my bags to come up on the conveyor belt. Their sound, with the warm air and lei, gets me into the aloha spirit in ten minutes or less. I’m very glad you enjoyed the dove sounds. Thanks so much.

  28. Pingback: Do We Choose Our Animals Or Do They Choose Us? – Lizard Planet

  29. Such a beautiful collection of the world’s doves here, Jet ๐Ÿ™‚ Sorry for my long absence, I have been struggling with health issues since mid September. Covid 19 pandemic didn’t help either.

    • Oh so yes, I agree, Bertie, that Australian rainforest has some exciting sounds. I have never heard so many strange and wild sounds coming from one forest. Thank you, my friend.

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