Doves prefer to eat on the ground, as opposed to eating from tubular bird feeders. Doves feed from any piles of spilled seed underneath feeders, or from flat bird tables or platform feeders. Pigeons are doves and are attracted to any type of seed put out for mourning doves, white-winged doves, ringed turtledoves or other dove species. Doves also enjoy corn.
Bird seed mixtures contain two types of sunflower seeds. The all-black "oiler" seeds possess a thinner shell than the zebra-striped type. Doves eat striped sunflower seeds but, if given a choice, prefer to eat the all-black ones because they are easier to open. Pigeons and squirrels are especially fond of the all-black sunflower seeds. In order to prevent pigeons and squirrels from eating all of the seed left out for doves, use the striped sunflower seeds, advises the Cornell Lab or Ornithology.
Safflower is an oil seed like sunflower. Safflower has a hard shell and is often contained in commercial bird seed mixtures. Other birds enjoy it, as well as doves, including grosbeaks, chickadees and sparrow species native to North America. Occasionally, the European starling and another European species, the house sparrow, eat it. Mourning doves prefer sunflower seeds and thistle seeds.
Also called nyjer or niger seeds, these look like thin, shiny black rice grains, but are seeds. Rich in oil and easy to crack open, they are devoured not only by doves but also by large finch species like goldfinches, juncos, pine siskins, song sparrows and chickadees. If these birds frequent the yard, hang up a tubular thistle seed feeder for them and place a tray feeder for the doves. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service recommends purchasing a thistle feeder with a flat tray for doves.
More commonly called pine nuts, these are the thin, pale seeds from conifer or pine trees. Considered a delicacy by people, they are also enjoyed by mourning doves, North America's most common native dove species. They are not commonly added to commercial bird seed mixes, so purchase separately. Pine seeds also attract squirrels.
- Maryland Department of Natural Resources; "Creating a Wild Backyard: Mourning Dove"; Dec. 1, 2004
- The Cornell Lab of Ornithology: Choosing Bird Seed
- Virginia Cooperative Extension; "Feeding Wild Birds"; Peter T. Bromley and Aelred D. Geis; May 1, 2009
- The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; "Backyard Bird Feeding"; Terry Ross
- Backyard Nature: FAQ About Squirrels
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
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