What Do Dove Birds Eat? (Tip: AVOID Feeding Them Bread)

Dove birds, known for their grace and association with love, can be found all around the world, perched on telephone wires or foraging for seeds on the ground. These birds have a variety of dietary preferences, with seeds making up a large portion of their natural diet. When they’re out in the wild, doves typically consume seeds, vegetables, worms, fruits, insects, and occasionally nuts to fulfill their nutritional requirements.

In captivity, dove birds’ diets may differ slightly. Owners should account for this variation when providing food. With a proper diet consisting of seeds, fruits, vegetables, and dietary supplements, doves can thrive in both the wild and captive environments. It is important for caregivers to be aware of any dietary hazards and ensure their birds reside in suitable habitats.

Key Takeaways

  • Dove birds primarily forage for seeds, vegetables, and fruits in the wild
  • Feeding habits differ when doves are in captivity, requiring a balanced diet
  • Providing dietary supplements and proper habitat ensures the well-being of doves

Types of Doves

Doves belong to the Columbidae family and are found in various parts of the world. There are several species of doves, each with unique characteristics and feeding habits. Among the most common species are mourning doves, white-winged doves, and pigeons.

  • Mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura) are known for their slender bodies and soft, muted colors, with a preference for grass and weed seeds. They are vegetarian foragers, often seen feeding on seeds like Doveweed, Foxtail, Panic grasses, Colorado grass, Sorghum, Plains bristlegrass, and Johnsongrass. These doves are widely distributed across America and can be found in various habitats, such as grasslands and urban areas.
  • White-winged Doves (Zenaida asiatica), as the name suggests, have distinctive white markings on their wings. They are relatively larger than mourning doves and mainly inhabit the southern United States, Mexico, and Central America. Their diet primarily consists of seeds, fruits, and vegetables. White-winged doves are also known to occasionally feed on small insects and worms.
  • Pigeons, also known as rock pigeons or city pigeons, are part of the Columbidae family. They are incredibly adaptable and can thrive in both urban and rural environments. Pigeons have a diverse diet, which includes seeds, grains, fruits, and even small insects. Their feeding habits are highly opportunistic, and they are known to eat almost anything that fits into their beak.

Read Next: What Do Hummingbirds Eat?

Natural Diet

Dove birds, known for their symbolism of love and peace, have a diverse diet in their natural environment. They primarily rely on seeds for their nutrition, but their preferences can vary depending on their habitat. You’ll often find doves foraging on the ground, seeking out different food sources to fulfill their dietary needs.


One of the significant components of a dove’s diet is seeds. They enjoy munching on a variety of seeds like grass seeds, flax seed, and even corn.


Wild doves don’t limit themselves to only seeds, though. They also look for small insects, worms, and occasionally snails, providing them with the necessary proteins and nutrients for a balanced diet.

Berries and Fruits

Berries and fruits may also form part of a dove’s natural diet. They consume these items whenever they come across them in the wild while foraging. Some fruits and berries that doves enjoy are apples, cherries, elderberries, and various types of baneberries.


In addition to seeds, fruits, and insects, doves have been observed eating vegetables and greens. They like consuming small portions of vegetables like lettuce, kale, or spinach, which contribute to their nutritional intake. Greens not only offer essential vitamins and minerals, but they also provide doves with hydration.


Nuts are another essential element in a dove’s diet. They tend to favor varieties like peanuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, or almonds. While not a daily staple, nuts offer extra proteins, fats, and fibers that help maintain their overall health.

Tip: It’s worth noting that doves are creatures of habit. They often return to the same spots, known as feeding locations, to find their food. These areas can consist of a variety of environments like the ground, grasslands, or beneath trees. While foraging, doves are highly adaptable, making the most of the available food in their specific habitat.

Feeding Habits

Dove birds are quite versatile when it comes to their feeding habits. They are known to forage on the ground, in trees, and even near water sources. These birds primarily feed on seeds, grains, and various types of fruits. For instance, they enjoy consuming wheat, corn, millet, and oats. They also occasionally eat insects and worms, making their diet well-rounded.

When foraging on the ground, doves display a unique behavior of shuffling their feet to uncover hidden seeds. They are quite thorough in their search for food, sometimes walking for long distances to find a good feeding spot. In addition to ground foraging, doves also pluck fruits straight from trees when the opportunity arises. They have been known to enjoy fruits like pine and sweetgum when they are available in their habitat.

Doves’ need for water is essential, as they tend to drink often. Unlike many other birds, doves have a distinct drinking habit, where they suck up water using their bills and then tilt their heads back to swallow. Providing a clean, shallow water source in your yard can make it an even more attractive spot for these birds.

Their signature “coo” sounds, often heard during mating season, is another fascinating aspect of dove behavior. Doves are monogamous creatures, known to mate for life. Once they have formed a strong bond, a pair of doves will stay together, raising multiple broods of chicks throughout their lives.

Feeding Doves in Captivity

When it comes to feeding doves in captivity, it’s essential to meet their nutritional needs while also providing a variety of options. A well-rounded diet will ensure your doves remain healthy and happy. Doves, both adult and baby doves, enjoy a variety of seeds, fruits, and insects. Including a mixture of these food sources can help the doves thrive.

One great option for feeding captive doves is a balanced pellet food. Pellets are specially formulated to provide all the necessary vitamins and minerals that doves need. As a starting point, consider offering a mixture of pellets with other seeds such as millet and safflower.

When considering contents for a bird feeder, remember that doves have a preference for seeds such as millet and safflower. To accommodate this preference, it’s a good idea to offer seeds in a shallow tray or platform-style feeder. This setup enables easy access and encourages natural foraging behavior.

Aside from pellet food and seeds, captive doves also benefit from a variety of fruits and vegetables. Provide options like apples, cherries, and spinach to add some diversity to their diet. Just remember to chop the fruits and vegetables into manageable sizes for the doves to consume.

In addition to fruits and vegetables, providing mealworms is another way to support doves’ nutritional needs. Mealworms serve as an excellent source of protein, which is especially important for baby doves that are still growing. However, be cautious not to overfeed these insects, as moderation is key.

While it might be tempting to feed doves bread, it’s not the healthiest option. Bread provides little nutrition to doves and can lead to obesity if fed in large amounts. Instead, focus on seeds, pellet food, fruits, and vegetables as primary food sources.

By meeting their nutritional needs and establishing variety in their diet, you help promote the overall health and well-being of your feathered friends.

Seed Types for Doves

Doves have a diverse diet, and one of their primary food sources is seeds. They are known to enjoy a variety of seed types that provide them with essential nutrients. Let’s explore some of the common seed types that doves find particularly appetizing.

  • Millet is a popular choice for doves due to its small size and high nutritional value. This seed is often present in birdseed mixes, making it an excellent option for attracting doves to your backyard.
  • Sunflower seeds are another favorite of doves, specifically the oil sunflower type. The seeds are packed with healthy fats and proteins, providing doves with the energy they need for their daily activities. However, the hulls can be difficult for doves to crack open, so it’s best to offer them hulled sunflower seeds.
  • Safflower seed is a less common option but still enjoyed by doves. This seed has a bitter taste, which makes it less attractive to some other bird species, but doves don’t seem to mind. Including safflower seeds in your bird feeder may even help deter less desirable visitors like squirrels and cowbirds.
  • Cracked corn is a great option for ground-feeding birds like doves. Being easily accessible and digestible, cracked corn provides these birds with a valuable energy source. If you choose to offer cracked corn, ensure it’s fresh and clean as moldy corn can be harmful to birds.
  • Different types of grass and weed seeds also attract doves. Some examples include Foxtail, Panic grasses, Colorado grass, Plains bristlegrass, Johnsongrass, and Barnyardgrass. Doves find these seeds both in the wild and in bird feeders, making them an important part of their diet.
  • Wheat and sorghum seeds, commonly found in agricultural fields, are also consumed by doves. Make sure to offer them clean and pesticide-free seeds to promote healthy feeding habits.
  • Lastly, milo is an affordable seed option that doves enjoy along with other bird species. This drought-tolerant grain is dense in nutrients and provides a reliable food source for doves, especially during the winter months.

By providing a mix of these seed types, you will create a diverse and nutritious food source for doves, ensuring their health and satisfaction.

Fruits and Vegetables for Doves

Doves can benefit from the addition of fruits, berries, and vegetables to their diet. These provide essential vitamins and nutrients, promoting good health and well-being for these birds.

When it comes to fruits, doves enjoy a variety of options. Some popular choices include apples, oranges, and various types of berries. It’s important to remember that fruits like oranges are rich in vitamin C, which is vital for a dove’s immune system. However, not all fruits are suitable for doves. For instance, you should avoid feeding them avocados, which can be toxic to birds.

In addition to fruits, doves can eat a wide range of vegetables. These include broccoli, spinach, and celery, which are packed with essential nutrients such as vitamin K. Like vitamin C, vitamin K plays an important role in maintaining the health of a dove and is necessary for proper blood clotting and bone health.

While doves can eat some nuts and seeds, it is important to choose suitable options like safflower seeds or shelled peanuts. Peanuts can be a great source of protein and healthy fats, although it is crucial never to feed doves unshelled peanuts as they can pose a choking hazard. Keep in mind that nuts should be offered in moderation, as excessive consumption may lead to obesity in birds.

To ensure your dove gets a well-balanced diet, you can offer a mix of fruits, vegetables, and seeds, along with their primary diet of seeds and grains. By providing a diverse array of nutritional options, you will ensure that your dove maintains optimal health and well-being. Just remember to keep the portions small and consistent, as overfeeding can lead to digestive issues in these delicate creatures.

Providing Dietary Supplements

Doves, like other birds, require a balanced diet to maintain their overall health. They need sources of protein, fats, and essential vitamins such as vitamin C, vitamin K, and antioxidants. Providing dietary supplements can help ensure your dove receives the necessary nutrients for optimal health and well-being.

One option for dietary supplements is formulated pellets, which are specifically designed for pigeons and doves. These pellets contain essential vitamins and minerals to support the overall health of your bird. Pellets make up a significant portion of their diet, but it’s also important to include other fresh and wholesome foods.

Aside from pellets, incorporating fresh vegetables and fruits into their diet is highly beneficial. Vegetables like leafy greens, carrots, and peas provide essential nutrients, including antioxidants and vitamins, such as vitamin C and K. Make sure to wash these veggies thoroughly and chop them into bite-sized pieces. For fruits, you can offer small amounts of apples, blueberries, and cherries, as they are packed with vitamins and antioxidants.

It’s important to keep in mind that seeds should never be the sole food source. However, doves can eat a variety of grains and seeds such as millet, wheat, barley, and sunflower seeds, in moderation. These foods can provide protein and fat, which are essential components of their diet.

For an added boost of nutritional support, consider using a high-quality avian vitamin and mineral supplement. Mixing this supplement into your dove’s food is an excellent way to ensure they get all of the necessary nutrients. Palomacy recommends using a product like HealthGard, which can be purchased from pigeon supply stores.

Hazards and Precautions

Dove birds, with their small heads and short necks, have certain nutritional needs that must be met to maintain optimal health. Their diet typically consists of seeds, fruits, vegetables, worms, and insects. When feeding doves, it’s essential to ensure that the appropriate balance of nutrients is provided to support digestion and overall health.

A proper seed mix is crucial for a dove’s diet. Offering them a blend of 15-25% pellet-based diet and 50-60% bird seed can provide the necessary nutrients they need to thrive source. Aside from seeds, incorporating leafy greens and vegetables every other day supplies additional vitamins and minerals.

While doves can eat worms and insects, it’s essential to be cautious of potential hazards. Earthworms and snails found in parks or gardens may carry parasites that can harm a dove’s health. To minimize the risk, it’s advised to either purchase worms and insects from reliable sources or thoroughly clean them before feeding.

In addition to parasites, doves may face some health risks if their crop becomes impacted. The crop is a pouch-like organ in their digestive tract where food is stored before being processed. Ensuring that their food is adequately soaked, especially when feeding dry seed mix, can help prevent crop impactions and promote healthy digestion.

Doves, as well as pigeons, are often found in urban parks and public spaces. The health of these birds can be affected by factors such as pollution and availability of food sources. It’s essential for local parks and government commissions to take responsibility for maintaining clean environments and providing the necessary resources for these birds to survive.

Lastly, it’s worth noting that doves, especially mourning doves, are one of the most hunted species in North America source. Educating the public about the ethical treatment and preservation of these birds can play a vital role in ensuring they continue to thrive in their natural habitats.

Habitat and Distribution

Dove birds can be found in a variety of habitats across the globe. They are known for their adaptability and are commonly seen in regions like Mexico and Central America. While they prefer areas with plenty of vegetation, these birds also thrive in deserts due to their hardiness.

When it comes to creating nests, doves prefer to build them in bushes or trees. They use twigs, grass, and other plant materials for constructing small, flat nests. This provides a safe and secure place for laying eggs and raising their young.

In urban and suburban areas, dove birds are often spotted near bird feeders. They are attracted by the seeds and grains provided by humans, making our neighborhoods excellent spots for them to forage for food. If you want to attract doves to your backyard, providing bird feeders stocked with seeds is a surefire way to do so.

While they are highly adaptable, doves do have preferences when it comes to their environment. They enjoy nesting in areas with ample tree or bush cover, which offers protection from predators and harsh weather conditions. Additionally, they seek out habitats with abundant food sources, often found near agricultural fields or fruit-bearing trees.


Doves are beautiful birds that can be observed in various natural environments, and understanding their diet can benefit birdwatchers and pet owners alike. Doves primarily feed on a diet consisting of seeds and grains, which they forage for on the ground.

When choosing seeds and grains for doves, there are several suitable options. These include:

  • Oats
  • Cereals
  • Wheat
  • Corn
  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Peas
  • Pulse
  • Vetch

Some species of doves and pigeons may also have a preference for fruits and greens over seeds, which can be added to their diet for variety.

Maintaining a balanced diet is essential for the overall health and well-being of doves. It’s important to remember that while these birds are often fed bread by people in public spaces, it may not provide the necessary nutrients for their optimal health.

Remember, doves thrive on a diet composed of seeds, grains, and sometimes fruits and vegetables. So, the next time you observe these graceful birds, you’ll have a better understanding of their feeding habits and dietary preferences. Please ensure that if you feed doves in the wild or keep them as pets, you provide them with the appropriate diet to support their health and well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do doves typically consume?

Doves are known to primarily consume seeds and grains. They can eat a variety of seeds, including those from grasses, weeds, and even some cultivated plants. However, it’s essential for doves to have a balanced diet, so they should also consume other foods such as greens, insects, and fruits source.

What food items can be given to doves?

You can feed doves items like seeds, vegetables, worms, fruits, insects, and nuts source. A balanced diet is vital, so make sure to provide a mix of these foods. Some favorite options include millet, sunflower seeds, and cracked corn.

Are there any specific seeds doves prefer?

While doves can eat a variety of seeds, they seem to favor millet, sunflower seeds, and crushed corn source. These choices are nutrient-rich and widely available, making them ideal for doves.

Do doves require a water source for sustenance?

Yes, doves need a water source to survive. They drink water not only to quench their thirst but also to help digest their food. It’s essential to provide a clean, fresh water source for doves, especially if you’re trying to attract them to your garden.

What type of food attracts doves to a garden?

To attract doves to your garden, consider providing food sources such as seeds, greens, and insects. A wide range of seeds, including millet, sunflower seeds, and cracked corn, are ideal. Additionally, consider placing a birdbath or other water source in the garden, as this will further entice doves to visit source.

What are some popular foods for different dove species?

Mourning doves are drawn to seeds and greens, with an occasional berry or snail as an option. Other dove species might enjoy eating insects like ants, crickets, snails, and various types of worms source. Keep in mind that every dove species will have its unique dietary preferences, so it’s essential to research the specific needs of the dove species you’re trying to attract.

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