Mourning Doves Widely Hunted in United States
By: Margaret Mauldin
The Mourning Dove is the most abundant and widely hunted bird in the United States. Morality is high among doves. Mourning Doves are hunted in thirty eight states. More Mourning Doves are killed each year-over twenty million- than any other animal in the country. Although, dove hunting serves no wildlife management purpose, many view the birds as nothing more than live targets. Doves are not over populated. Doves are not a viable human food source. During the hunting season, doves are actually at their lightest body weight for the entire year. Even if shot properly, doves have very little edible flesh on them. Research studies confirm nearly one in three birds are wounded and not retrieved during hunting season. Despite the hunters, the dove remains among the ten most abundant birds in the United States.
Mourning Doves are the traditional bird of peace and a beloved backyard songbird. They sing a song that sounds like coo oooo woo woo woo oooo. They delight millions of birdwatchers or those who lure the gentle birds to their backyard.
Mourning doves are light grey and brown and generally muted in color. Their tail has white outer edges. Male and female birds are similar in appearance with the males slightly larger and more colorful, with a blueish crown and pink chest. In flight, the bird’s wings make a fluttery whistling sound. The Dove’s are considered a medium size, slender bird with a small head and tapered tail. The feet and legs are light red to light purple, with three toes forward and one reversed.
The mourning doves are highly adaptable birds and are found in a wide variety of habitats. They are found in open woodlands and forest areas near fields and grass lands. They are abundant in agricultural and suburban areas where humans have created suitable habitats.
Mourning Doves eat almost exclusively seeds which make up 97% of their diet. Rarely, do they eat snails or insects. They often swallow grit such as sand or small gravel to assist with digestion. These birds generally eat enough to fill their crops and fly away to digest while resting.
During courtship the male bird leads the female to potential nest sites and the female will choose one. The male will gather materials for a bird nest and bring it to her. The male will then stand on the females back and give it to her so she can weave it into the nest. The nest is flimsy constructed, made of blades of grass, twigs and confer needles. Most nests are in trees, but they can be found in shrubs or on the ground.
The female, almost always, lays two eggs. The eggs are small and white. Sometimes she will lay her eggs in the nest of another pair of doves. Mourning Doves are devoted parents. They rarely leave the nest unattended. The male sits on the eggs from morning to afternoon, with the female taking over the rest of the day and night.
Incubation of the eggs takes approximately two weeks. In warm areas, these birds may raise up to six broods in a season. The mourning dove is monogamous and they form strong pair bonds. Pairs typically reconvene in the same area in the next breeding season. Sometimes they remain together for the entire winter.
About the Author
This author enjoys watching the birds and having them come to her feeders and bird houses.
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