How Long Can Dove Eggs Be Left Unattended?

From the smallest hummingbird to the majestic eagle, each bird species possesses unique nesting and breeding habits that have been honed over millions of years of evolution. One such species is the dove, whose eggs and their incubation present a fascinating case for both ornithologists and bird enthusiasts alike.

Doves, like many other bird species, are meticulous in their care for their offspring. However, situations may arise where eggs may be left unattended for a period of time. Typically, dove eggs can survive for about a day without the warmth of their parents. Various factors such as ambient temperature, humidity, and the stage of development can influence this timeline.

This delicate stage in the dove lifecycle requires a precise balance of environmental conditions and devoted parental care. When these factors are disrupted, it can have significant consequences for the survival of the eggs.

Basics of Dove Reproduction

From my experience observing bird behavior, doves display some unique reproduction traits that set them apart from other avian species.

Breeding Habits of Doves

Doves are prolific breeders. In optimum conditions, a pair can produce up to six broods per year, each containing one or two eggs. This rapid breeding cycle allows doves to maintain stable population numbers, even in areas with high predation or frequent disturbances.

During the mating season, males engage in an elaborate courtship display to attract a mate. This involves bowing, cooing, and presenting nesting material to the female. Once a pair bonds, they often preen each other and share in the responsibility of building their nest.

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Typical Dove Nesting Behavior

Doves prefer to build their nests in safe, secluded areas, often choosing tree branches, ledges, or man-made structures. Using twigs, grasses, and other plant materials, they construct simple, shallow nests. The male typically gathers the materials while the female arranges them.

Interestingly, dove nests are notoriously flimsy. Despite their apparent fragility, these nests serve their purpose, cradling the delicate eggs until they are ready to hatch.

White dove in the nest

Understanding Dove Egg Incubation

Incubation is a critical phase in the lifecycle of doves. It involves careful temperature regulation to ensure the healthy development of the chicks within the eggs.

Dove Egg Incubation Period

The incubation period for doves, the time from laying to hatching, typically lasts between 14 to 18 days. During this time, the embryos inside the eggs are developing, preparing to hatch.

Temperature plays a vital role in the incubation process. Doves, like all birds, need to maintain their eggs within a certain temperature range for successful hatching. Any significant deviation from this range can be harmful to the developing chicks.

Role of Parent Doves During Incubation

Both male and female doves share incubation duties. The female usually incubates at night, while the male takes over during the day. This division of labor ensures the eggs are always attended to.

Parent doves are known for their attentiveness during the incubation period. They rarely leave the eggs unattended, stepping away only briefly to feed or when threatened. When one parent returns, they often perform a ritual of cooing and nuzzling before the other leaves the nest.

As the eggs near their hatching date, the parents may be observed pecking at the eggshell, an action believed to help the chicks break out of the shell.

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What Happens If Dove Eggs Are Left Unattended?

Despite the best efforts of dove parents, sometimes their eggs may be left unattended. Various factors can contribute to this event.

Effects of Abandonment on Dove Eggs

Dove eggs left unattended face a severe drop in temperature, affecting the developing chick inside. Depending on the ambient temperature and the stage of development, the eggs may become inviable if left alone for too long.

Aside from temperature drops, other potential causes of egg death include increased vulnerability to predation, adverse weather conditions, or the parents failing to return due to illness or death.

Possible Reasons for Eggs Being Left Unattended

Predators or disturbances can cause the parents to abandon the nest temporarily or permanently. These can range from natural predators like snakes or raccoons to human-made disturbances such as tree pruning or loud noises.

The health or age of the parent doves can also affect their ability to properly incubate their eggs. Older or sick doves might not be able to maintain the necessary incubation period, leading to unattended eggs.

nest and eggs.(Dove)

How Long Can Dove Eggs Survive Unattended?

Determining the exact amount of time dove eggs can survive unattended is complex, as it depends on several factors.

Expert Opinions on Unattended Dove Eggs

From my research and observations, it appears that dove eggs can survive about 24 hours without parental warmth. However, this time frame can be shorter or longer depending on various factors.

Environmental factors such as temperature and humidity play a significant role in egg survival. In warmer climates, the eggs might survive longer than in cold conditions.

Factors Influencing Survival of Unattended Eggs

As mentioned, the temperature and humidity of the surrounding environment can greatly impact the survival of unattended dove eggs. Extreme temperatures and low humidity can dry out the eggs and impede the chick’s development.

The stage of development of the eggs when they are left unattended can also affect their chances of survival. Eggs that are closer to hatching might survive a bit longer without incubation than eggs that were recently laid.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why did the parent doves leave their eggs?

Doves may leave their eggs due to disturbances, predation, or sometimes due to their own health issues. It’s also important to note that doves do leave their nests for short periods to feed, but they usually return soon.

What should I do if I find an unattended dove egg?

If you find an unattended dove egg, it’s usually best to leave it alone. The parents may be nearby and will likely return to continue incubation. If the egg is in immediate danger or you’re sure the parents won’t return, consider contacting a local wildlife rehabilitation center.

Can a dove egg survive in cold weather?

Dove eggs can survive in cold weather, but the survival rate decreases significantly if the eggs are left unattended for too long. If the ambient temperature drops too low, the developing chick inside the egg may not survive.


From my years of studying bird behavior, I’ve come to understand that the survival of unattended dove eggs hinges on several factors, including environmental conditions and the stage of egg development. The commitment of dove parents to incubating their eggs is remarkable, but even in their absence, the resilience of life can sometimes surprise us.

However, it’s important to remember that any interaction with wildlife should be respectful and minimal. Should you encounter an unattended dove egg, it’s typically best to leave it undisturbed. If intervention is necessary, seek guidance from professionals at a wildlife rehabilitation center.

As we’ve seen, the world of doves and their eggs is both fascinating and complex, an intricate dance of life shaped by the simple need to survive and thrive. I hope you’ve found this exploration enlightening, and perhaps, it’s inspired you to learn even more about these graceful creatures and their interesting life cycle.

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