By Jeff L. Makemson, Certified Wildlife Biologist

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 37 of the lower 48 states. More mourning doves are harvested than all other migratory game bird species combined. In Alabama more than 83,000 hunters harvest more than 1.8 million mourning doves each year during the hunting season.

To help make appropriate management decisions, wildlife managers need current and accurate data. Research on morning dove survival and harvest rates is an important element to understanding the effects of annual hunting regulations on mourning dove populations.

Alabama is one of 27 states, 15 in the Eastern Management Unit, nine in the Central Management Unit and three in the Western Management Unit, participating in a dove banding study. Alabama is teamed with Georgia to create the Southern Subregion Management Unit to meet banding quota goals. The banding program yields annual estimates of age-specific survival rates and harvest rates for large-scale breeding regions or management units. Banding data collected will be used to estimate reporting rates, harvest rates, harvest distribution, and survival rates. Banding occurred throughout the state during the months of July and August by wildlife biologists, technical support staff and volunteers.

Since states started banding mourning doves in 2003, more than 80,000 doves have been banded. More than 50 percent were from the Eastern Management Unit. During the past three years Alabama has banded 1,871 juvenile doves, 1,379 adult doves and 79 unknown aged doves for a total of 3,329. Records of birds banded were maintained and submitted according to guidelines provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Bird Banding Laboratory. Last year in the Southern Management Unit, 12 percent of the banded mourning doves harvested and reported were juvenile birds and 8 percent were adult. More than 90 percent of the doves harvested in Alabama were local birds. To date, only 11 banded mourning doves have been reported in Alabama that were banded in other states. Approximately 50 percent of the banded mourning doves harvested are reported.

The hunter is 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 please call 1-800-327-BAND (2263) and report the band number. Operators are on duty 24 hours a day during hunting seasons, Monday-Friday (otherwise 7 a.m. - 4:30 pm.). During other hours leave your telephone number on the voice mail system.

Banded birds may also be reported online at Hunters can keep the bands. They also will receive a certificate identifying the age, sex, date and location the bird was banded.