Hunters may assist with banding study

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 29, 2003

This summer, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources' Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division is participating in a nationwide mourning dove banding study, and is seeking help from state hunters.

Mourning doves are one of the most widely distributed and abundant birds in North America. It is a popular game bird that is hunted in 36 of the lower 48 states. In Alabama, more than 70,000 hunters harvest more than a million mourning doves each year during the hunting season. It is because of this huge interest that Alabamians are encouraged to participate in the study.

The objectives of the three-year study are to determine mourning dove harvest rates, estimate annual survival, provide information on the geographical distribution of the harvest, and develop and refine techniques for a future operational dove banding program. Information on dove survival and harvest rates is key to understanding the effects of annual hunting regulations on mourning dove populations.

Current estimates of survival and harvest rates are from band recovery data collected from 1965-1975 because no large-scale banding programs have been in place since that era. More current population models have been developed and require current data.

More than 85,000 doves will be banded in 26 states during the next 3 years. Wildlife biologists throughout Alabama will band approximately 1,000 doves during July and August of this year.

Mourning doves are captured in wire ground traps baited with grain or sunflower seeds. Doves frequent agricultural fields, bare earth or gravel areas to obtain food and grit. These locations make excellent areas to capture doves. The doves are removed from the traps and their age and sex determined based upon color and patterns of feather replacement and wear. The birds are then banded with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bands inscribed with unique numbers and a toll-free telephone number.

Hunters are the critical link in this study. Reporting banded harvested doves helps obtain the information that will permit better management of this important migratory bird resource. To report a banded mourning dove, hunters should call 1-800-327-BAND (2263). Operators are on duty 24 hours a day, Monday-Friday during hunting season. During other hours, leave your telephone number on the voice mail system. Banded birds may also be reported online at; select "Birds" then "Bird Banding Lab." Hunters can keep the bands. They also will receive a certificate identifying the age, sex, date and location the bird was banded.

For more information on this study, contact Jeff Makemson, Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Biologist, Mourning Dove Banding Project Leader at (205) 339-5716.