What Do Doves Eat?

Written by Emily Wolfel
Updated: October 16, 2023
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Doves belong to the Columbidae family of birds and usually have plump bodies, relatively long necks for perching birds, tails that are often long, and beaks that are short and slender. Doves are found everywhere on earth save the polar regions and the driest deserts, and the rock dove has one of the greatest ranges of any bird: it is the pigeon that has made itself at home in many cities around the world. For more information on makes up a dove’s diet, read on:

What Do Doves Eat
Most doves tend to be herbivores or granivores, but some augment their diet with animal protein.

What Do Doves Eat?

Doves’ food preferences depend on the type of dove and where they live. Most doves prefer an herbivorous or granivorous diet, but some are opportunistic feeders who will augment with animal protein when necessary. So, what do doves eat? Some foods that doves like to eat are:

  • Seeds, including seeds of dove weed, sunflower, hemp, safflower and crowngrasses
  • Grains like wheat, rice, corn, barley, oats, and sorghum
  • Grasses, including Panicum and Echinochloa
  • Weeds, including knotweed, ragweed and poison ivy
  • Berries
  • Fruits, including dates, figs and plums
  • Flowers and buds
  • Leaves from trees such as willows, poplars, and elms
  • Acorns
  • Insects, including ants, beetles, and grasshoppers
  • Insect Larvae and Pupae
  • Snails
  • Worms
  • Bone from owl pellets and animal feces
  • Pollen
  • Nectar
  • Discarded human food such as pizza, bread, popcorn, fried chicken bones

How Do I Attract Doves to My Yard?

What Do Doves Eat
A beautiful dove sitting on a fence in a garden. The best way to attract doves to your garden is to regularly scatter a handful of seeds on the ground.

©Oren Douek/Shutterstock.com

Most doves are ground feeders, so the best way to attract them to your yard is to simply scatter handfuls of seeds over the ground. To be a bit tidier, you can also put seeds in a ground feeder or on a platform feeder that’s open on all sides. Though hanging feeders are more likely to attract other birds, doves don’t mind taking seeds that these birds have dropped.

Though doves feed on the ground, they’ll need perches to rest on, so make sure your trees or shrubs have protruding and unpruned limbs. They’ll also perch on electrical wires and clotheslines. The ideal place is a clear area with a perimeter of shrubs and trees where the birds can make a quick escape from would-be predators.

Though just about all seed-loving birds covet black sunflower seeds, mix these in with some nuts, cracked corn, millet, safflower, and niger seeds. Just make sure to clean up old husks frequently so they won’t attract rodents, including squirrels. Make sure to have a source of clean water in the area for both bathing and drinking, and make sure to keep it clean.

How Do Doves Hunt Prey?

Though most doves are granivores, there are a few that do hunt and consume animals. Doves do not seem to have a sophisticated hunting strategy but pick up insects, grubs, caterpillars, ants, worms, and snails where they find them on the ground. If the snail is small enough, the dove simply swallows it and doesn’t bother with smashing the shell or poking its beak inside to get at the animal.

What Do Doves Eat
A white Eurasian collared dove eating bird food in Adelaide, South Australia.

©iStock.com/T O

What Animals Eat Doves?

Doves are small, gentle, and defenseless birds, and their predators are numerous. Humans famously eat doves. Indeed, they were so found of passenger pigeons that they wiped them out altogether even as there were flocks with millions of birds. Besides humans, animals that have doves, their chicks, and/or their eggs as part of their diet are:

Bonus: What Do Doves Symbolize?

White dove on a background of sky and clouds. symbol of peace.the reconciliation concept.hope.striving for the future.peace concept

In the story of Noah, a dove brings Noah a sprig of an olive branch to let him know that land is near.


Doves are seen as symbols of peace, hope, renewal, spirituality, transformation, and love. These ideas stem from ancient cultures and religions – many regarding the dove as a sacred messenger between humans and the spiritual realm. For some indigenous tribes, wearing dove feathers was believed to ward off evil spirits and offer spiritual protection.

In Christianity, doves represent the holy spirit – while Buddhists see the dove as an embodiment of kindness and compassion. White doves have come to symbolize purity – and were symbols of fertility in ancient Mesopotamia. Doves were also associated with the goddesses Aphrodite and Venus in ancient Greece and Rome and in China, they are symbols of enduring love. With all of their connections to love – it’s no wonder that doves are released at weddings!

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Pascale Gueret

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About the Author

Emily is an editor and content marketing specialist of five years. She grew up in rural Pennsylvania where you can regularly encounter anything from elk to black bears to river otters. Over the years, she raised livestock animals, small animals, dogs, cats, and birds, which is where she learned most of what she knows about various animals and what allowed her to work as a dog groomer and manager of a specialty pet store. She now has three rescue cats and two high-needs Pomeranian mixes to take up her love and attention.

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