Songbird Protection Coalition

Cruelty of "Acceptable Losses"

Due to a long nesting season, wingshooters kill mourning doves with eggs in the nest or young not old enough to care for themselves.  Game Commissioners are unwilling to set biologically sound hunting seasons that would prevent the "harvest" of parent doves...the "crop," for their purpose, would "go to waste."

On a nationwide basis 6.6 percent of doves are fledged from successful nests initiated in February through April, 83.1 percent are fledged May through August, and 10.3 percent of all fledging occurs DURING the months of September and October (Geissler 1987).

The nesting season in southern Michigan varies from year to year and seems contingent upon prevailing weather (Lund 1952).  There seems to be a correlation between temperature in the spring and fall and the phenology of dove nest initiation (Hanson and Kossack 1963).  Generally, unseasonably cold temperatures delay nesting attempts, whereas unusually warm temperatures accelerate them. The nesting season in Michigan usually begins early April and usually ends mid-October.

Biologists (Pearson 1939, Moore 1939, Lincoln FC 1945, McClure 1944 and 1950, Quay 1954, Kenaga 1962, Caldwell 1964, Schroeder 1970, Guynn 1973, Scanlon 1973) have noted that the late breeding by mourning doves was the main factor complicating sound dove management and that it would be a mistake to permit hunting during a period when two young may die in the nest from starvation after a parent is killed by hunters. In studies (Bivings 1980, Haas 1980 and 1981, Mirarchi 1981, Scanlon 1981), the removal of one parent from nests with eggs or young resulted in a significant reduction in nesting success; with the removal of one of an adult pair, the remaining adult was unable to fledge squabs (Laub 1956).

Hunting management of this species has been a very controversial subject, even within regulatory agencies. Despite recent and long-term scientific data confirming significant declines in the breeding population, commissioners consider this cruel cause of mortality "acceptable" and they want to "believe" it to be below the expedient level to use doves as a "consumptive resource" to sustain annual "hunts."

According to the Atlas of Breeding Birds of Michigan, "a dove hunting season set for earlier than mid October would orphan young."  In states which allow dove hunting, open season usually occurs September 1st through October 31st (although attempts have been made by dove shooting proponents to move the season into August, part of the prime nesting season).  A substantial portion of the population is clearly nesting throughout most of the shooting season.  The mourning dove is the only known species hunted DURING part of their nesting season.

Note: Many research studies are quoted and/or paraphrased within this article from Ecology and Management of the Mourning Dove and the Atlas of Breeding Birds of Michigan.

Source, including but not limited to: The Atlas of Breeding Birds of Michigan, The Central Flyway Council, Ecology and Management of the Mourning Dove, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Alabama Private Forest Management Team, Oklahoma Academy of Science, Colorado State University, Oregon State University, Missouri Department of Conservation, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.