Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Mourning Dove

Here is another article from the Piedmont Virginian newspaper.

"Hunting of Doves Bothers Many"
by Lou Jonas

Is the dove a songbird or a gamebird? Grain thief or weed seed eater? The dove has been a subject of controversy for many years. Many bird-lovers would like to see dove-hunting outlawed forever, but the sportsmen dislike having to sit by and rest their guns while about 90 percent of each year's crop of birds is taken by disease, parasites, and predators.

Much research has been done on the dove by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and many state Fish and Game Departments, including that of the state of Idaho. It was found that, under usual conditions, hunting has little effect on the dove population. Doves usually live about twoyears and have a high mortality rate.

Whether hunted or not, the carryover of breeding birds will be about the same. The number of doves in any area depends upon the amount and type of food available and cover available.

The mourning dove (or turtle dove) is easily recognized by its distinctive dihouette, with pigeonlike head and pointed tail. Specialists call it a small brown pigeon, which makes it sound like a very dull bird, indeed. Actually, the irridescence of its plumage makes it one of the most beautiful.

Its voice is also distinctive, though many city boys call it a "hoot owl". Its mournful cry has a faraway effect, even though it may be perched directly over one's head.

Another "trademark" is the loudly whistling wings oas they flush from a weedpatch or perch, or as they fly overhead. Besides, the white feathers on each side of the tail are very noticeable as the bird flushes.

The corkscrew flight which the dove resorts to when in dangers is a fine defense against gunners as well as against the praire falcon and duck hawk. Few bird-hunters can hit one.

The doves eat pine nuts occasionally and also ripe grain which has fallen to the ground, but the craws are more often stuffed with seed seeds, even when they have been feeding in grain fields. Almost 50 percent of the diet of 57 doves examined in New York was found to be foxtail seeds. They occasionally also eat snails.

Most doves leave this region for warmer climes long before fall is officially over, and the ones which get caught in an early snowstorm seem rather miserable and confused. However, a few do winter in areas where snow seldom covers their food.