Mated doves generally bond for life and prepare to nest in the spring. The two birds work together during the entire process of preparing for and hatching their broods. For people who keep doves as pets or who have a brooding pair in their gardens, understanding the bird's nesting habits is important. This increases the chance of the birds successfully nesting and caring for their eggs and young.
Doves build their nests in locations that are approximately 1.5 to 7.5 metres (5 to 25 feet) high. The males gather building materials such as weeds, grass, twigs and pine needles that the females use to build the nests. These are light, loosely put together structures that make it easy for eggs to fall if a sudden movement occurs, such as a startled bird fleeing its nest. Doves will often return to a successful nest during the same season to lay another brood.
Most doves lay two eggs, while others lay only one. These eggs require continual incubation for approximately 14 days until they are ready to hatch. This is done in turns by both the male and female bird. The male dove sits on the eggs during the day only to switch with the female at night. Because the two look alike, this often gives onlookers the impression that the female bird does not leave the nest at all.
Both the male and the female bird feed their young. With some types of doves, such as the mourning dove and the white dove, feeding begins during the incubation process when both begin to produce a milk-like substance in their crop that is called pigeon milk. This contains nutrients that are necessary for the young bird, which feed directly from the crop of the parents. Baby doves feed on pigeon milk for the first few days of life. For other doves, the young feed on regurgitated food for the first two weeks.
Doves are flighty animals that will abandon nests, eggs or their young if they feel threatened by the presence of either humans or animals. Avoid disturbing the nest, which may also result in the doves abandoning their babies. Lice, mites and other pests that bite are also reasons for the birds to leave.