Friday, January 6, 2017

January 6, 2017

Location: Fellsmere, my yard

This is the egg of a Mourning Dove, the remains of which I found on my sidewalk. Not sure if the bird hatched or if a nest was predated. I did not find any sign of a nest, so I am guessing predation. It is a little early for mourning doves to be be mating1, but birds don't always stick to a schedule.

According to the North American Breeding Bird Survey, mourning dove populations have declined about 15% since 19662. The numbers for the South Brevard Christmas Count that I compile have varied from a low 148 seen in 1984, to a high of 1,504 in 1993. Keep in mind that those numbers are anomalies, and could be due to weather, food source, or any other of a myriad of reasons that occurred on the specific day of the bird count. In typical years, we see between 450 and 550, and those numbers have remained steady throughout the 44 years for which I have the historical data. The anomalies are the reason why it's so important to keep the bird count going - the data collection is to show trends over long periods of time, not just one particular day.

Doves in general are an easy species to pick out on a wire. As I tell my birding classes, just look for a turkey baster with wings. They have a bulbous head, and a long thin neck. After you have narrowed it down to the dove family, most doves have pretty distinct body shapes and other field marks. For example, the Mourning Dove has a long thin tail, and has a distinct plaintive call that makes me want to ask it if would like to go for coffee and talk about what is on it's mind.

(1) Personal interview, David Simpson
(2) Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds

Photo and text © 2017 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

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