Do Mourning Dove Feathers and Wings Make Noise?

What's that whistling noise coming from mourning doves in flight? We explain how mourning dove feathers and wings make a high-pitched sound.

Mouring Dove flyingJanet Griffin-Scott/Getty Images
Mourning dove in flight

It’s no secret that mourning doves, for all their beauty, aren’t the most graceful fliers in the bird world. They always look a little off kilter, like they can’t quite find their balance in the air. And what’s with the high-pitched noise they make when they fly? It might surprise you to know that whistling sound comes from mourning dove feathers. Here’s how it works.

Become a mourning dove expert with these fascinating facts about mourning doves.

Mourning Dove Feathers Make “Wing Whistles”

mourning dove feathersImpromptu Photography / Cindy Gillespie/Getty Images
Listen for a whistling sound when mourning doves fly.

That’s right—the squeaky noise isn’t the bird chirping! The sound you hear when a mourning dove flies comes from special feathers on its wings. The noise is called “wing whistles,” and it occurs when air rushes through those feathers and causes them to vibrate. Because mourning doves don’t have varying calls, mourning dove wing whistling serves an important purpose. It allows the birds to convey urgency and danger to the rest of their flock.

Psst—mourning doves are the fastest nest builders! Learn all about dove nesting habits and what baby mourning doves and eggs look like.

Wing Whistles Help Other Birds

mourning doves in flightCourtesy Barbara Rutledge
A close-up view of mourning dove wings and feathers

Scientists have proven that other birds respond to wing whistles. They recorded the sound of crested pigeons—a mourning dove relative—flying normally, as well as fleeing in fright. When they played those recordings for other pigeons, the scientists discovered the birds paid no mind to the “normal” flying-away sounds. But when they heard the alarmed wing whistles, they took off. Other species of birds use the noise as a signal, too.

While wing whistles might sound odd to us humans, they serve an important purpose. When the bird takes off in alarm and mourning dove feathers sing their song, it signals to other birds in the vicinity that danger is near. Those birds then know to head for cover or be on the lookout for predators.

Next, learn how to identify a white-winged dove.

Emily Hannemann
Emily Hannemann is an associate editor for Birds & Blooms Digital. Throughout her years with the publication, she has written multiple articles for print as well as digital, all covering birding and gardening. In her role as associate editor, she is responsible for creating and editing articles on the subject of birding and gardening, as well as putting together Birds & Bloom's daily digital newsletter. After graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a master's degree in magazine journalism and undergraduate degrees in journalism and English, she has more than eight years of experience in the magazine, newspaper, and book industries.