Songbird Protection Coalition

Mourning Dove Mortality Rate

The natural mortality for the mourning dove holds the same average mortality rate as other songbirds species in any given area.  The estimated annual adult mortality rate for songbird populations during their first year is generally 50 percent or higher.

The scientific research can somewhat vary but there is an estimated 50 to 70 percent annual loss in the OVERALL mourning dove population. The mortality for newly-hatched doves can be as high as 70 percent due to weather extremes, flimsy nests, and natural predation.  Adult doves have a 50 percent mortality rate which is consistent with other songbirds.  The average mortality for a stable dove population is approximately 60 percent or less.

Mortality factors include spring and summer storms. Nest predators include many avian and mammalian species.  Adults are preyed upon by raptors (falcons, hawks, owls).  Some are lost to disease and accidents.  Human hunters cut into the numbers further.

Dove hunting propaganda would lead you to believe that hunting does not contribute "at all" in reducing dove numbers - the birds they kill would die anyway due to an "abnormally high" mortality rate - this claim is untrue.  Hunting removes many of the birds that have, or would have, survived the projected natural mortality rate and it plays a large part in the reduction of numbers.

Various studies confirm the differences in population trends between the hunting and non-hunting states - especially in the Eastern Management Unit (EMU), of which Michigan is part of.  According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, "dove populations from groups of non-hunting states in the Northeast and Upper Mideast have much higher annual survival rates."  Management studies show "EMU doves from hunting states clearly experience much higher hunting mortality than do doves from non-hunting states.  Estimated kill rates for doves banded in hunting states were more than six times greater than those for doves banded in the Unit's non-hunting states" (1).  Banding research also indicates a higher 20 to 30 percent overall kill rate (1) and banding returns suggest that legal hunter kill "may run as high as 50 to 60 percent on local juvenile doves during the early season" (2).

Although not known precisely, nationwide hunting mortality, statistically averaged to include non-hunting states, is conservatively estimated between 10 to 15 percent of the annual population.  "However, estimates for the EMU suggest that hunting mortality accounts for a much higher percentage of the total annual mortality of doves from hunting states than for the Unit as a whole and this percentage was much larger for the EMU hunting states than for states in the other management Units" (1).  Banding data for EMU "hunting states accounted for an estimated 30.0 percent of the annual mortality of immature doves and for 26.4 percent of the adult annual mortality" (1). Additionally, the US Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledges "serious problems" in using state and federal harvest surveys to monitor the impact of hunting mortality and that factors are multi-faceted and clearly inadequate at this time.

Recent and long-term scientific research of population densities within the Eastern, Central, and Western Management Units have shown a significant decline in dove numbers in all three Units during the past 10 and 37 year periods.  During this time, dove hunting has been legalized in many "new" states and the decline in some states has shown to be significant and accumulative in only 10 years...especially in the northern most range of these Units.

"Mourning doves tend to have lower recovery and survival rates than do most species of migratory birds hunted" (3).  It is not logical or reasonable to assume that Michigan doves could keep their numbers up with the pace of heavy losses caused by hunting pressure.  Michigan is at the far northern reaches of the mourning doves' range, and we do not see the incoming migrations the southerly states see coming across their borders.  Our large non-migrating
resident population would take the brunt of the blasting, these are the birds we enjoy as live songbirds.

Note:  Scientific data, research, and studies were compared and complied from multiple sources.  Although some sources are cited for reference, this is not the limit to which conclusions were assessed.  (1) Ecology and Management of the Mourning Dove p 300, p 301, p 304, p 327, p 318, p 509. US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2002 Mourning Dove Breeding Population Status Report.  (2) Mississippi State University Extension Service, information sheet 630.  (3) Atlas of Breeding Birds of Michigan p 230.

Source, including but not limited to: The Atlas of Breeding Birds of Michigan, Ecology and Management of the Mourning Dove, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, The Central Flyway Council, Pennsylvania Game Commission, Oklahoma Academy of Science, Oregon State University, Department of Fishery and Wildlife Biology Colorado State University, San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory, Mississippi State University.