Question on Incubation Period for Dove Eggs

We need some advice on this situation:

A momma Mourning Dove made a nest in one of our (outside, of course) hanging spider plants a little over 3 weeks ago. She laid one egg and has been faithfully sitting on it since.

She is quite welcome and used to our walking past her on the porch. As long as we don’t get closer than 2 feet, she is undisturbed. And, quite welcome, I might add. She’s a really pretty bird. We saw poppa once or twice visiting.

So the dilemma is, shouldn’t that egg have hatched by now? My wife did a search on it, and it seems that 2-2.5 weeks is the normal incubation period. We’re afraid the egg is a “dud.”

What, if anything, should we do? Just let her keep sitting on it? Wait another week & remove the egg, or what? We’d love to see a baby dove there, but it is beginning to look llike that won’t happen.

Again, we really like having her there, we just don’t want her wasting her time and maybe not eating right and all.

Thanks in advance.

Three weeks would be a pretty prolonged incubation. I would probably wait a few more days ( maybe a week to be absolutely sure) before removing the egg. If you want to be sure, you could try candling the egg to check for a chick, but there would be no guarantee that the female would resume sitting on the egg after you put it back if it did turn out to be fertile.

If the egg is a dud, the best course would be to remove it. This would not be so much because the female might not be eating right but that it would give her a chance to lay another clutch while it’s still fairly early in the season.

Are you sure it’s the female on the nest all the time? Mourning Doves split incubation duties, and it’s usually the male that takes the day shift.

Huh. I never thought about that possibililty. Interesting, and thanks for the suggestions, Colilbri!

Wow, The Straight Dope’s got the power!

It’s only a few hours since I replied to Colibri’s post and my wife just called me.

We’ve got baby birds! We missed seeing one of the eggs, obviously, because there are TWO baby doves there. Their eyes are not even open yet. So cute.

We’re both thrilled, we were so worried that nothing was going to happen. Maybe we should spread some grains by the porch for the parents, but I don’t think we’ll do that, though…don’t want to attract a crowd of other birds to the area.

Yes, the usual clutch size for Mourning Doves is two, so it struck me as a bit odd that you seemed to have only one egg there.

There is really no need to spread seed for them, since Mourning Doves are excellent long-distance fliers and can forage over large distances. Spreading food around could also attrack nest predators, if not attracted to the food itself then attracted to the other birds that might come.

In any case, at the earliest stages the chicks will be fed on “crop milk,” a nutritious milk-like substance that pigeons (uniquely among birds) produce in their crops to feed their young.

OK, seed is out, thanks again.