St. Louis, Mo.— Budding biologists, bird enthusiasts and nature lovers are invited to participate in a unique, hands-on opportunity to handle live birds and work with biologists in sustaining healthy wildlife. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is hosting a Mourning Dove Banding program at Bellefontaine Conservation Area in North St. Louis County on Wednesday, July 10.
The program consists of two 45-minute segments. The first is from 4:30 to 5:15 p.m. and second is from 5:30 to 6:45 p.m. Participants may sign up for either or both. In the event of inclement weather, the program will be rescheduled for the same times on Thursday, July 11.
The program is open to ages 6 and over. Young children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Participants will be given an orientation on how the banding process works, which begins with capturing the birds in wire cages. They will then assist MDC biologists with the banding.
The ground-feeding doves are lured into the cages by corn set out as bait. Each bird is removed from the cage where biologists determine its gender and estimate its age. This data, along with time, date and place of capture are recorded into a database, keyed to a unique number unique to each dove. A small metal band containing this number is then placed on the dove’s foot before setting it free.
If the dove is later recaptured, or is harvested and retrieved, the band serves to track the bird. This provides biologists with insights into dove population numbers, migration patterns and lifespan. It also helps establish hunting limits and seasons.
Mourning doves are a legal game bird in Missouri. Dove season opens on Sept. 1 in the Show-Me State. Hunters are requested to report all banded birds they take to MDC.
The Dove Banding Program is free and all materials will be supplied. All activity is outdoors, so participants should come dressed appropriately. Reservations are requested and can be made by calling 314-877-6014.
Bellefontaine Conservation Area is located immediately south of the intersection of Highway 367 and I-270. It can be reached through a shared driveway with the Missouri Veteran’s Home.
The slender-bodied mourning dove can be identified by its gray-brown color and black spotted wings. They are also characterized by a rounded head, smooth-looking breast and long, tapered tail. Mourning doves are common in crop fields, farms and backyards. They get their name from the eerie, mournful cooing sound they make.