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Mourning Dove Banding Project Update

Wildlife and the Outdoors


Mourning Dove Banding Project Update


Jeff L. Makemson, Wildlife Biologist II


            Mourning doves are one of the most widely distributed and abundant birds in North America. It is a popular game bird that is hunted in 36 of the lower 48 states. More mourning doves are harvested than all other migratory game species combined. In Alabama, more than 70,000 hunters harvest more than a million mourning doves each year during the hunting season.

Current estimates of survival and harvest rates are from band recovery data collected from 1965-1975 because no large-scale banding programs have been in place since that era. During July and August 2003, wildlife biologists and technical support staff participated in a nationwide mourning dove banding project. Alabama was one of 26 states involved in this important research project.

The objectives of this three-year study are to determine mourning dove harvest rates, estimate annual survival, provide information on the geographical distribution of the harvest, and develop and refine techniques for future operational dove banding programs.

Wildlife managers need current and accurate data on the species being managed and harvested to help make appropriate management decisions. Several state and federal committees and councils involved in management of migratory birds have passed resolutions in the past two years that acknowledge the need for establishment of this large-scale research project. Research on mourning dove survival and harvest rates is key to understanding the effects of annual hunting regulations on mourning dove populations.

Mourning doves were trapped and banded in nine blocks throughout Alabama. Thirty-eight wildlife biologists and support staff banded 1,189 mourning doves. The quota established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was 940 mourning doves, so Alabama exceeded the quoted by 249 birds. Mourning doves banded within the age classes were also exceeded by 104 hatching year birds and by 88 after hatching year birds. Records of birds banded were maintained and submitted according to guidelines provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Bird Banding Laboratory.

Hunters are a critical link in this mourning dove banding study. Reporting banded harvested doves helps obtain the information that will permit better management of this important migratory bird resource. If you harvest a banded mourning dove, call 1-800-327-BAND (2263) to report it. Operators are on duty 24 hours a day, Monday-Friday during hunting season. During other hours, leave your telephone number on the voice mail system. Banded birds may also be reported online at www.pwrc.usgs.gov; select “Birds” then “Bird Banding Laboratory.” Hunters may keep the bands and they will also receive a certificate identifying the age, sex, date and location the bird was banded.

            For more information on this study, contact Jeff Makemson, Biologist, Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, Mourning Dove Banding Project Leader at 205-339-5716.

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