What do doves eat? Are they easy to feed?

When it comes to doves, these gentle and graceful birds have captured the hearts of many with their soothing coos and elegant appearances. But have you ever wondered what do doves eat? Whether you’re an aspiring birdwatcher, a dove owner, or simply curious about the dietary habits of these lovely creatures, this comprehensive guide will delve into the fascinating world of dove nutrition. Can they eat chicken food?

Introduction to Doves

Before we dive into the specifics of what doves eat, let’s start with a brief introduction to these birds. Doves belong to the family Columbidae, and they are found in various parts of the world, from North and South America to Eurasia and Africa. These birds are known for their small to medium-sized bodies, distinctive cooing sounds, and gentle temperament.

Doves come in various species, but some of the most common ones include the Mourning Dove, Eurasian Collared Dove, and Rock Dove (commonly known as pigeons). While their physical characteristics may differ slightly, their dietary preferences often follow a similar pattern.

What do doves eat?
What do doves eat?

The Natural Diet of Doves

To understand what doves eat, it’s essential to explore their natural diet in the wild. Doves are primarily granivorous birds, meaning they predominantly feed on seeds and grains. However, their diet can vary depending on the species, location, and available food sources.

Seeds and Grains

Seeds and grains make up the core of a dove’s diet. They prefer small seeds such as millet, sunflower seeds, and safflower seeds. Doves are also known to consume various grains like wheat, barley, oats, and corn when available. In the wild, these birds often forage for seeds on the ground or from low-lying plants.

Fruits and Berries

While seeds and grains are their primary source of nutrition, doves occasionally incorporate fruits and berries into their diet. These fruits can include berries, cherries, grapes, and various soft fruits. Fruits provide essential vitamins and minerals that supplement their diet.


Although not a staple, doves may consume insects on occasion. Insects offer a source of protein and other essential nutrients. Some dove species, like the Ground Dove, may actively seek out insects as a part of their diet.


Like all living creatures, doves need access to water to survive. They drink water to stay hydrated and often bathe in it to keep their feathers clean. Bird baths and clean water sources are essential for attracting doves to your garden.

What Doves Eat in Captivity

Understanding what doves eat in the wild is valuable, but it’s equally crucial to know how to provide a balanced diet for doves kept in captivity or as pets. Whether you’re caring for a pet dove or attracting wild doves to your backyard, here’s what you need to know about feeding them.

What Doves Eat in Captivity
What do doves eat?

Commercial Dove Food

If you have pet doves or wish to attract them to your yard, you can find commercial dove food specifically formulated for their nutritional needs. These birdseed mixes typically contain a combination of seeds and grains that mimic the doves’ natural diet. Look for a high-quality dove mix to ensure your pet’s well-being.

Supplemental Foods

In addition to commercial dove food, it’s a good idea to provide supplemental foods to ensure your doves receive a well-rounded diet. Here are some options:

Leafy Greens

Offer fresh leafy greens like spinach, kale, and lettuce. These provide essential vitamins and minerals that may be lacking in a seed-based diet.


Doves enjoy fruits like apples, pears, and berries. However, fruits should be offered in moderation due to their higher sugar content.


Grit, such as crushed oyster shells or small stones, is essential for doves’ digestion. It helps them grind down seeds in their gizzard.


A cuttlebone is a valuable source of calcium for doves. It helps maintain healthy bones and beaks.

Fresh Water

Always provide clean, fresh water for your pet doves. Ensure that the water container is regularly cleaned and refilled.

How to Attract Doves to Your Yard

If you’re a bird enthusiast and want to attract doves to your yard for observation or photography, providing the right food and habitat is key. Here are some tips on how to make your outdoor space dove-friendly:

Food Stations

Set up feeding stations with a variety of seeds and grains. Platform feeders or ground feeders work well for doves, as they prefer feeding on flat surfaces.

Shelter and Roosting Spots

Doves appreciate sheltered spots to rest and nest. Planting trees and shrubs can provide suitable roosting locations for these birds.


Doves love to bathe, so consider installing a birdbath in your yard. Clean, fresh water is attractive to doves and provides an additional incentive for them to visit.


Attracting doves to your yard may take some time. Be patient and avoid disturbing them while they feed or rest. Doves are known to be easily spooked.

What do doves eat? Conclusion

What do doves eat? In summary, doves are charming birds with a relatively simple yet specific diet. Their natural diet primarily consists of seeds, grains, and occasionally, fruits and insects. Understanding their dietary preferences is essential for those who wish to keep doves as pets or attract them to their gardens.

Whether you’re caring for pet doves or attempting to enjoy the beauty of wild doves in your yard, providing a balanced diet and suitable habitat is crucial. With the right food offerings and a welcoming environment, you can create a haven for these gentle birds and enjoy their graceful presence for years to come. So, whether you’re a dove enthusiast or a casual observer, you now have a deeper understanding of what doves eat and how to provide for them.

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