Mourning Dove

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These are Mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura) that I got pictures of in my yard eating some of the birdseed that fell out of  my feeder.  These birds are very readily seen and are some of the most abundant and widespread bird species in North America.  They can keep this large population because they are prolific breeders (1 monogamous pair can have up to 6 broods a year).  Some other common names for them are Turtledove, Rain Dove, Carolina Pigeon, and Carolina Turtledove.  Their name “Mourning Dove” is derived from their call, coo-OO-oo-oo-oo, is tough to sound like a call of grief and sorrow.  The Mourning Dove is also Wisconsin’s state bird of peace.  They can be readily identified by a teardrop shaped black spot just below their eyes (its hard to tell in these pictures because they have their heads cocked in a way that covers it up). Doves in general make a notorious whistling sound as they are taking off and landing.

The Mourning Dove eats almost exclusively seeds.  They are heavy eaters, eating 12%-20% of their body weight in seeds a day and up to 71 calories per day.  To put that in context a 150 lb (68 Kg) human eating that amount would eat approximately 25 lbs (11 Kg) of food or 34,000 calories per day.  This level of eating is not exclusive to these doves, most all other birds tend to eat at this high level compared to their body size (and some substantially more).  These birds also have been know to eat a wide variety of seeds.  This is a good thing because they eat all the trash seeds that fall out of my bird feeder when I use mixed seed.  They tend to eat vigorously, filling their crops with seed (people have recorded up to 17,200 bluegrass seeds in one crop), then fly to a safe perch to digest the meal.  They can also subsist on drinking brackish water (up to half the salinity of sea water), which gives them the ability to survive drought and desert conditions more efficiently.

The Mourning Dove is also the leading game bird in the United States.  More than 20 million birds are shot annually, and some years that number can reach 70 million.  Due to their high level of breeding this does not hurt the population at all (in fact the population is estimated are around 350 million, which is high).  There is a level of health concern that goes along with this.   Since these birds are game birds and seed eaters they are highly susceptible to eating lead bird shot.  This lead can build up in the tissues and cause the birds to become poisoned and die.  Also, since many people eat the birds they shoot, it can also cause harm to humans if they happen to eat a poisoned bird.  Due to this fact many areas have restricted lead shot from being used, especially in waterfowl hunting (where lead can get into our drinking water as well).  Despite this fact, lead is still widely used in hunting and sport shooting practices.

Just another fascinating bird that I wanted to share… Get outside and see these guys for yourselves!!!

More about Mourning Doves click Here


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