Larry Collins

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September 27, 2012
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COLLINS: Mourning doves

This dove species was most likely named "Mourning Dove" because of the mournful cooing sound it makes. It is one of North America's most abundant birds and its flight speed can exceed 50 mph. Mourning Doves' feathers are loosely attached to their skin. These loose feathers allow them to easily escape the grasps of predators.

Like all birds, Mourning Doves are unable to sweat; so to stay cool, they pant like a dog. Panting requires them to drink more water due to the excessive loss of water to evaporation. They are one of the few bird species that drink by sucking up water. They can suck up a day's portion of water in less than 20 seconds.

Mourning Doves dine almost exclusively (99%) on seeds. They're able to eat large amounts in a small amount of time, reducing their exposure to predators. They will eat millet, cracked corn, oil sunflower, safflower, and Nyjer® (thistle). They prefer to eat from ground platforms, trays, and hopper feeders.

With a fall population of more than 500 million, Mourning Doves are one of the 10 most abundant birds in North America. It is estimated that between 50-65% of all Mourning Doves die annually. Mourning Doves are game birds in 38 states, and 70 million are shot annually. However, more Mourning Doves (300 million) die because of nonhunting-related causes such as weather, disease and predators.

Mourning Doves are monogamous for an entire breeding season. Some may re-pair in succeeding breeding seasons. Male and female Mourning Doves look very similar, but the male is slightly larger and has a more colorful bluish crown on its head and a pink-colored chest.

Nests are woven together by the female with materials collected by the male. The males supervise nest construction while standing on the back of their working female counterpart.

Mourning Doves may have up to six clutches of eggs per year. Each clutch typically has two eggs. This is the largest number of nesting cycles by any North American bird. Both parents assist in raising their young. Females will incubate the eggs from late afternoon until mid-morning. Males will take their turns during the heat of the day. Both parents feed their young "crop milk," a yogurt-like secretion. It takes both parents to provide enough food for their nestlings. If one parent is lost, the young cannot survive on the food produced by the lone remaining adult.

The average life span of a Mourning Dove is 1 1/2 years. The oldest known Mourning Dove lived to be 31 years old. This is the record life span for a North American bird that lives on land.

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The Post Independent Updated Sep 27, 2012 03:59PM Published Sep 27, 2012 03:57PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.