Every dove hunter knows how fast a mourning dove can fly, but most of us probably have never dreamed how far they go. Nevertheless, MDC has hunters to thank for a wealth of new information about doves’ migratory ways.
The agency recently reported the results of an eight-year study that tracked the movements of mourning doves. Workers banded 20,401 doves at conservation areas (CAs) between 2003 and 2010. All 15 CAs were ones where the agency encourages dove hunting. Hunters returned 2,311 of the bands, along with information about where and when the doves were shot.
Buried in the resulting mountain of information are what wildlife managers call “vital rates,” things like the percentage of doves that hunters take home each year, how long the birds live and how age, sex and other factors affect birds’ survival. Eventually, all those data will find their way into computer models to help MDC understand dove populations and manage them effectively.
Blah, blah, blah. Want to know some INTERESTING stuff that emerged from the study?
FEWER THAN ONE IN EIGHT DOVES SURVIVES TO SEE ITS SECOND HUNTING SEASON. Still, they keep ahead of hunters and other predators by cranking out fledglings at a rate of two every 28 days or so during a nesting season that starts in March and continues into September.
A FEW DOVES (.04 PERCENT) SEE EIGHT HUNTING SEASONS. Hunters recognize the Methuselahs. They’re the ones that turn into flying corkscrews at the sight of a human standing at the edge of a cornfield.
Most astonishing to me is a map showing where all the band returns came from. More than 90 percent were returned by hunters right here in Missouri. However, A FEW OF MISSOURI’S BANDED DOVES GOT AS FAR AS IDAHO, SOUTH DAKOTA, UTAH, NEW YORK, ALABAMA, FLORIDA AND MEXICO BEFORE ENDING THEIR JOURNEY IN A KITCHEN.
I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised at Missouri doves’ far-flung travels. At the rate some of those birds were going last time I saw them, they could have been pecking corn next to pigeons in Central Park or sipping margaritas before I got home.