January 2016 Bird Photo of the Month

Mourning Doves greet the Moon © Bob Montanaro
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)

Although this is a once in a blue moon photo by Bob Montanaro, we often see Mourning Doves in our neighborhoods and farms sitting on wires. Mourning Doves have thrived on human encroachment by easily adapting to humans. They build a hurried platform nest of sticks in 2-4 days. An average of 2 eggs are laid in 2-3 days. Both parents share in all aspects of chick rearing. After 15 days of incubation, young are hatched. Squabs keep their eyes closed for 2-3 days, completely dependent on parents even for temperature regulation, but grow rapidly.

Both parents produce “crop milk” (extremely high in protein, fat, minerals, antioxidants, immune enhancements) collected in a pouch in the throat, unique to pigeons and doves, (and independently evolved in flamingos, and male Emperor Penguins). Parents feed crop milk for 3-4 days, then begin eating seeds to soften in the crop milk for 6 days, then give only regurgitated soft seeds. Feathers emerge in a week, complete in 15 days when the squabs fledge, hanging around their nest for two days. Then the male takes them to feeding grounds and roost trees but progressively decreases feeding them until 30 days old when they are on their own. However, the female is readying for the next brood and lays eggs again, even within two days after the fledglings left.

In Florida, being a year-round resident, they are prolific, having multiple broods in a year. However, cold northern states birds migrate down all the Flyways. So during winter months, Florida has migrating flocks of Mourning Doves, some go on to Cuba. One of the most abundant bird populations in the US, estimated at 300-400 million, they breed in all continental U.S. states. Mourning Doves eat a 99% diet of wild seeds and waste grain scattered on the ground. Humans find their meat tasty, so purposely prepare fields for hunting to attract this prized game bird. Because doves are very fast flyers (~55 mph) yet make sudden erratic maneuvers, 1 million U.S. hunters feel challenged, prize them, and annually harvest about 20 million birds.

Juanita Baker, Coordinator
Florida Bird Photo of the Month
Pelican Island Audubon Society

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