What is the most frequently hunted game bird in the country? If you answered mourning doves, give yourself a pat on the back. The dove season opened this past Thursday, September 1. Also on September 1, Iowa just became the 41st state to establish a dove hunting season.
Mourning doves have been a popular game bird for decades, and mourning doves remain one of the most abundant birds in the nation with an estimated population of around 350 million. Their populations remain strong, especially when you consider that around 20 million birds will be harvested by hunters each year.
Mourning doves are permanent residents over much of the United States. However, they are only summer residents here in the Dakotas, parts of the Prairie Provinces, and portions of Montana and Minnesota.
According to Robert Stewart’s Breeding Birds of North Dakota, the Mourning dove breeding season runs from mid April to early October. They are known to produce from 1-6 broods per year with 1-3 eggs in each clutch. About one half of their rather crude nests are constructed in trees, while the other half is constructed on the ground. All of those clutches are not produced during the summer however, but two clutches during their summer stay in our area may be produced.
Some of you may have heard references to “pigeon milk.” Although not milk in the strict sense, that, of course, is the product of only mammals. However, both sexes of mourning doves produce pigeon milk which is secreted from the lining of their crops and is regurgitated into the mouths of nestlings for about three days. The nestlings then begin to be weaned to become seed eaters or granivores. It might surprise you, but that pigeon milk contains more fat and protein than human or cow milk.
Perhaps like you, I thoroughly enjoy hearing that “Cooah, coo, coo, coo” call of the mourning doves. Their call really does sound like they are a state of mourning. Actually biologists have discovered that most of these common calls that we hear are sung by single males. They could perhaps improve their odds if they would just go dancing!
Natural North Dakota is supported by NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center and Minot State University-Bottineau, and by the members of Prairie Public. Thanks to Sunny 101.9 in Bottineau for their recording services.
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