Featured Animal: December 2015
Mourning Doves, not Turtle Doves, for Christmas in Utah
By Dr. Nicki Frey and Mallory Ortego
One of the most commonly sighted backyard birds in North America is the mourning dove (Zenaida macroura). It is very likely you have seen them sitting on a power line or even feeding at the park.This bird gets its name from its common note, a low-toned, moaning coo. An unmated male gives the “perch-coo” from a visible location such as a bare branch, fence post or wire. It begins as a soft coo-oo followed by two or three louder coos. This sound is meant to attract a female to its nest, to be its mate. Mourning doves can scare predators or warn the flock by fluttering their wings at a fast rate and making their wings sound like a loud whistling noise.
The mourning dove is a medium sized bird weighing between 3.4-6oz. They are a light pinkish buff color with black spots on their wings and white tips on the tail feather. Compared to other dove species, mourning doves are fuller-bodied, with a long, tapered tail. Their diet consists almost entirely of seeds. Mourning doves are found throughout Utah. These doves are often seen foraging in grasslands, agricultural fields, backyards and roadsides. They can be seen in grain fields after the harvest. Mourning doves live in open habitat that has few scattered trees. Additionally, they are common in urban and suburban environments. Many doves winter in woodlots and will roost there throughout the winter season.
Mourning doves are prolific breeders, that can raise up to six broods in a season in warm climates. The female mourning dove almost always has a clutch size of two eggs and often will care for another female’s egg that is laid in her nest. Both the male and female mourning dove share parental duties and will both incubate the eggs. The incubation process takes up to 2 weeks and the hatched young are called squabs.
Mourning Dove Management
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources manages mourning doves as a game species, meaning that it is legal to harvest doves each year. By collecting harvested wings, wildlife managers can determine how many males, females, and juvenile mourning doves were harvested. They use these numbers to estimate the total mourning dove population in Utah. This year, the dove hunt was September 1- October 30. However, if you are a falconer, you can hunt mourning doves until December 16, 2015.
Mourning Dove Concerns
Of recent concern for wildlife managers is the increase in Eurasian collared-doves (Streptopelia decaocto) in Utah. Eurasian collared-doves were introduced to the Bahamas and Florida from Europe in the in 1970s, and have expanded their range across the United States. They are a similar gray color as the mourning dove, but they have a square tail and a black stripe, “collar”, on the back of their necks. Collared doves lack the black spots found on the backs of mourning doves. In urban and suburban areas, Eurasian collared-doves have out-competed mourning doves; once they have established, it is uncommon to see mourning doves. During mating, they sound a nasally “who-hoo hoo”, in contrast to the mourning dove “coo”. Despite their ability to take over man-made habitats, scientists have not documented a decrease in populations of native dove species in their “wild” habitat. From an ecological viewpoint, the colonization of Eurasian collared-doves is still new; so scientists are worried about what time will tell about this species’ ability to live among native dove species.
To control the spread of Eurasian collared-doves into Utah, they can be hunted throughout the year without a license. However, one needs to identify and verify that the species is a Eurasian collared dove, and not a mourning dove or band-tailed pigeon (Columbia fasciata) during the dove hunt, prior to excluding it from the bag limit.
Videos to Help You Identify Your Doves
All About Birds. 2015. Mourning Dove. Accessed at: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Mourning_Dove/id
Chipper Woods Bird Observatory. 2015. Mourning Dove. Accessed at: http://www.wbu.com/chipperwoods/photos/mdove.htm
Kenn Kaufman. 2015. In Eurasian Collared-dove. Audubon.org (eds.). Accessed at: https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/eurasian-collared-dove
National Geographic. 2015. Mourning Dove . Accessed at: http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birding/mourning-dove/
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. 2015. 2015-2016 Utah Upland Game and Turkey Guidebook.