Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Mourning Dove Couple

This pair of Mourning Doves frequent our feeders almost daily, always together. They tend to stay close to each other when feeding, within 3 to 4 feet at least.  I've watched them countless minutes as they peck at seeds on the ground, pushing aside any ground litter with their beaks. Mourning Doves tend to feed busily on the ground, swallowing seeds and storing them in an enlargement of the esophagus called the crop. Once they've filled it, they can fly to a safe perch to digest the meal.

Members of a pair preen each other with gentle nibbles around the neck as a pair-bonding ritual. Eventually, the pair will progress to grasping beaks and bobbing their heads up and down in unison. During the breeding season, you might see three Mourning Doves flying in tight formation, one after another. This is a form of social display. Typically the bird in the lead is the male of a mated pair. The second bird is an unmated male chasing his rival from the area where he hopes to nest. The third is the female of the mated pair, which seems to go along for the ride.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Mourning Doves are the most widespread and abundant game birds in North America. Every year hunters harvest more than 20 million, but the Mourning Dove remains one of our most abundant birds with a U.S. population estimated at 350 million.   

I've heard some people say that dove meat is very good, but I doubt if I'll ever second their opinion.  I realize the birds are heavily populated in the states, but I would have to be starving to kill one and I pray it never comes to that.  I'm going to be in big trouble if it does!

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