Southern Africa is blessed with a great variety of doves and pigeons; around fourteen different species are resident here. Some are common and widespread throughout the region, others not. One of those that is quite limited in its distribution within the region is the African mourning dove, restricted to the northern river system in Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe, and the area around the Kruger National Park in South Africa and adjoining Mozambique. Within this range it may be locally quite common.
One of the “ring-necked doves”, with a conspicuous black collar, fringed with white along its upper edge, on the back of its neck, the African mourning dove is of medium size, about 30 cm in length, and is distinguished from other similar grey doves in the area by its yellow eyes and the patches of red skin that surround the eyes. The head and back are grey, the underparts are paler grey. The bill is blackish; the legs and feet pink. Males and females are similar in size and plumage.
African mourning doves are usually found in pairs in riverine acacia or other forests, or on farmlands and have adapted well to human activity. These doves are quite terrestrial, they often feed on the ground on seeds, and within farmlands on fallen grain. They also eat some fruit and termite alates. Their call can often be heard at night, a loud krroooo, okrroooo or coo, coo.
Mourning doves are monogamous, nesting in a flimsy platform of twigs lined with finer vegetation and located in a tree or bush. The female usually lays a clutch of two white eggs that hatch after about 14 days.
The scientific name for the African mourning dove is Streptopelia decipiens; Streptopelia from the Greek for “a collared dove” and decipiens from the Latin for “to deceive or cheat”, apparently because it is so easily confused with some of the other doves in the area. It hardly seems a good reason to call a bird a cheat!! So, a dove with a collar that deceives or cheats.