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Why Do Doves Sit on the Ground Not Moving?

Mourning Doves, also known as Rock Pigeons, are a species of bird that are commonly found in North America. They are recognized for their distinctive, soft cooing calls and their tendency to perch on wires, windowsills, and even the ground.

People often observe these doves sitting motionless on the ground, leading to the question, why do they do this? This blog aims to shed light on this intriguing behavior and provide an explanation for why doves choose to sit on the ground without moving.

Doves Sit on the Ground Not Moving

Explanation of Dove Behavior

Doves, including Mourning Doves, are known for their ground feeding habits where they search for food, such as seeds and grains, on the ground. They will often be seen sitting on the ground while they take a break from feeding.

In addition, doves will sometimes sit on the ground to relax and conserve energy. This is especially true during hot weather when they may engage in sunbathing to regulate their body temperature.

Sunbathing also helps them control parasites, as the heat from the sun can kill off mites and other parasites that may be on their feathers. This behavior is not only important for the bird’s health, but it also helps them stay alert and ready to take flight if they sense danger.

Different Interpretations

Some people may mistake a dove resting and stretching its wings for an injured bird. However, it is normal behavior for doves to stretch their In some cases, a dove may be sitting on the ground because it is injured or in distress.

Signs of injury may include uneven or tattered feathers, uneven movement, or abnormal behavior such as sitting for an extended period of time or appearing dazed. For someone who is not familiar with bird behavior, a dove sitting on the ground may seem unusual.

It is important to understand that doves are ground feeders and often rest on the ground after feeding. They may also take a break, sunbathe, or engage in parasite control. Stretching their wings is also normal behavior. If a dove appears injured or in distress, it is recommended to seek assistance from a wildlife rehabilitation center.

Interactions with Other Birds

  • Association with Inca Doves – Doves are often seen interacting with other bird species, such as Inca Doves, who share similar habitats and food sources. Inca Doves are known for their peaceful nature and can often be seen foraging for seeds alongside Mourning Doves.
  • Socialization with Pigeons – Doves and pigeons are often lumped together due to their similarities in appearance, but they are different species. However, Mourning Doves are known to socialize with pigeons and can often be seen together in flocks.
  • Building Relationships with Humans – Some Mourning Doves have been known to form bonds with humans and can be seen approaching people for food or attention. This is particularly seen in urban areas where doves have learned to associate people with food sources.

Nesting Habits of Mourning Doves

Mourning Doves, also known as Rock Pigeons, are known for their subtle and hidden nesting places. These birds build their nests in trees, bushes, on building ledges, and sometimes on the ground.

The nests are made of twigs, grass, and other materials found in the area and are often lined with feathers. Unlike other bird species, mourning doves do not build elaborate nests and often hide them well, making them difficult to spot.

This is a defense mechanism to protect their eggs and young from potential predators. Despite their best efforts, nest and young doves are still vulnerable to threats such as habitat destruction, predation, and extreme weather conditions.

Dove Behavior Characteristics

Behavior Explanation
Ground Feeding Mourning Doves feed on the ground, using their beaks to search for seeds, fruits, and insects.
Relaxation and Breaks Doves often sit on the ground, seemingly still, as a way to relax and take a break from flying and foraging.
Sunbathing Doves will sit in the sun, sometimes with their wings outstretched, as a way to regulate their body temperature and control parasites.
Stretching and Flapping Doves will stretch and flap their wings to maintain muscle flexibility and to cool down.
Distressed or Injured If a dove is sitting on the ground and not moving, it may be injured or distressed and in need of help.
Association with Inca Doves Mourning Doves will associate and socialize with Inca Doves, sometimes sharing a feeding area.
Socialization with Pigeons Mourning Doves will also socialize with pigeons, although they tend to feed in different areas.
Building Relationships with Humans Some doves will build relationships with humans, such as in parks or backyards, by accepting food offerings or by nesting nearby.
Hidden Nesting Places Mourning Doves will construct their nests in hidden, discreet locations, such as in bushes, trees, or on building ledges.
Threats to Nest and Young Doves Doves’ nests and young are vulnerable to predators, such as squirrels and snakes, as well as human disturbance and destruction of their habitats.

This table is a summary of the information discussed in the previous sections, presented in a concise and easy-to-read format.


Why do doves sit on the ground for long periods of time?

Doves often sit on the ground to feed, relax, sunbathe, or control parasites.

What is the significance of Mourning Doves in the ecosystem?

Mourning Doves play a significant role in the ecosystem as seed dispersers and pollinators, as well as being a food source for predators.

How do Mourning Doves build their nests?

Mourning Doves build their nests using twigs and grasses and place them in hidden locations such as trees, shrubs, or even on the ground.

Can doves be trained to interact with humans?

While doves can become familiar with humans, they cannot be trained to interact with them in the same way that other domesticated birds, such as parakeets or pigeons, can.

Are Mourning Doves migratory birds?

Yes, Mourning Doves are migratory birds and typically fly south for the winter.

Can doves recognize their mate or nest?

Yes, doves are capable of recognizing their mate and nest and forming strong bonds with them.

Editor’s Note

It seems that Mourning Doves do take breaks from standing/perching and rest on the ground. Some people have observed that they also stretch out their wings while sunbathing, which can help to control parasites and flush out feather mites. They tend to nest in hidden places in shrubs or tangled vines.


Mourning Doves are fascinating creatures with unique behaviors and habits. Their habit of sitting on the ground can be attributed to several reasons, including ground feeding, relaxation and taking a break, sunbathing, and parasite control.

Different interpretations of this behavior include stretching and flapping of wings, distress or injury, and a layman’s explanation. Mourning Doves also interact with other birds such as Inca Doves and pigeons, and sometimes form relationships with humans.

Additionally, they have specific nesting habits that include hidden nesting places, different nest placements compared to other birds, and threats to their nests and young doves.

This blog aims to provide a deeper understanding of Mourning Dove behavior and encourage more bird watching and observation. By appreciating the beauty and significance of doves in the ecosystem, we can gain a greater appreciation for the natural world around us.

Whether you are a seasoned birdwatcher or a beginner, keep an eye out for these graceful creatures, and watch for their unique behaviors as they bring a touch of beauty to our world.


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