Mourning Dove Breeding
July 1, 2003 - US Fish and Wildlife Service
Population Trend Overview: Significant declines confirmed in all three management Units. Dove populations from groups of non-hunting states in the Northeast and Upper Mideast had much higher annual survival rates. The population increased significantly in Wisconsin while it decreased slightly in Michigan and the New England states. Over 10 years, Indiana and Ohio noted downward trends.
The following report consists of three Management Units: Eastern Management Unit (EMU), the state of Michigan is part of the EMU and consists of 27 states, dove hunting is permitted in 18 of those states. Central Management Unit (CMU), consists of 14 states, dove hunting is permitted in 12 states. Western Management Unit (WMU), consists of 7 states, all states permit dove hunting.
Excerpts from 2003 Mourning Dove Breeding Population Status Report
Between 2002 and 2003, the average number of doves heard per route decreased significantly in the Eastern Management Unit. Over the 38-year period, all three Units exhibited significant declines.
Although not known precisely, the fall population has been estimated to be about 475 million (Dunks et al. 1982, Tomlinson et al 1988). However as there is evidence of population decreases since this estimate was made from data collected in the 1970's, we believe that the mourning dove population has declined to slightly more than 400 million in the United States.
The EMU was future divided into 2 groups of states for analyses. States permitting dove hunting were combined into one group and those prohibiting dove hunting into another.
EMU Population Trends: 10 and 38 year -- Analyses indicated significant declines over the most recent 10 and 38 year periods for the combined hunting states. In the combined non-hunting states, a significant increase was found over 10 years while no trend was indicated for 38 years. For the Unit, no significant trend was found over 10 years, but a significant decline was indicated for the long-term period. For doves seen, over 38 years, a significant increase was detected for the combined non-hunting states.
2002 to 2003 Population Changes -- The average number of doves heard per route decreased significantly between years [02-03] in the combined hunting states and in the Unit as a whole. The index for the combined non-hunting states did not change significantly.
Over 10 years, increases were found in Wisconsin (non-hunting state) while Indiana (hunting state) showed a decline. Between 1966 and 2003, an increase was noted in New England (non-hunting states)...while a downward trend was noted in Ohio (hunting state)...
CMU Population Trends: 10 and 38 year -- No significant trend in doves heard was indicated for the Unit over the short term, but a decline was indicated over the long-term. The population increased in Iowa...a decrease was noted for Minnesota...
WMU Population Trends: 10 and 38 year -- No significant trend in numbers of doves heard was indicated over 10 years although a significant decline was apparent over 38 years. Analyses of doves seen gave the same results. Utah is the only state that shows a decline over 10 years while all states in the Unit except Washington have a decline between 1966 and 2003.
2002 to 2003 Population Changes -- The number of doves heard per route decreased significantly in California.
State Surveys: In summary, it appears that the dove harvest throughout the United States is on the decrease...more doves are harvested than all other migratory game birds combined.
Harvest Dynamics: The role that various sources of direct mortality and their interactions have played in the population dynamics of mourning doves is sometimes unclear...a relatively high dove harvest historically and the role of hunting in the decline is unknown...the sources for mortality during the study period were hunting (65.3%), predators (22.4%), unretrieved hunter kills (10.2%), and unknown crass of death (2.0%).
If doves used a reproductive mechanism to compensate for hunting losses, higher harvest age ratios would be expected at sites with greater hunting pressure. Harvest age ratio varied by site in one year only, when this ratio was greatest at the site with the lowest hunting pressure. It appears that there was little evidence of compensatory natality during this study.
Understanding the effects of harvest on Mourning Dove populations is a multi-faceted challenge...
Dove populations from groups of non-hunting states in the Northeast and Upper Mideast had much higher annual survival rates.
- Songbird Protection Coalition