We’ve all seen mourning doves throughout our lives: they’re small pigeons, rather elegant looking to my eye, recognizable by their light brown bodies, black spots on their wings, and black crescent shaped area below the eye. If you have a bird feeder, you’ve noted that they’re frequent guests, enjoying all sorts of seeds, and eating up to 20% of their body weight each day. They peck at the seeds and store them in their crops; once their crops are filled, they generally fly to a safe perch to digest. They're such delicate-looking birds that I was astonished to learn the enormous capacity of their crops: one greedy mourning dove had 17,200 bluegrass seeds in its crop awaiting digestion. (We can thank the Cornell Ornithology lab for counting all those seeds.)
The mourning dove is the nation’s most common game bird, with hunters bagging between 20-70 million of them each year. No wonder they utter that mournful cry! Mourning doves are hunted here in Rhode Island during prescribed dates in the fall, with a limit of 12 birds a day. However, the good citizens of New Hampshire, who must be a romantic bunch at their core, overwhelming rejected a proposal to permit the hunting of this dove. They deluged their legislators with letters condemning the proposal. The main reason: all the broken dove hearts that would ensue if one’s life-long mate were shot.
By Sara Drogin