The perch coo and whistling wings make them one of the most recognized avian species. Zenaida macroura, commonly known as the Mourning Dove, is one of Michigan's most beloved songbirds.
This status, as songbird, had maintained Michigan's long heritage and tradition of mourning dove protection and preservation since 1905 - longer than any other state in the union. Additionally, this legal status provided protection, without exemption, under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act; which made it unlawful to "take" (pursue, hunt, shoot, poison, wound, or kill) the mourning dove within the State of Michigan.
Monogamous, doves pair for life. Males take an active parental role. Both parents incubate, produce crop milk, feed older nestlings, and defend territory from potential nest predators. Males sit the nest during the day, females at night. Incubation takes about 14 days and the squabs are fledged in about 14 days. Doves are often seen visiting feeders as bonded pairs.
The breeding population is biologically unable to compensate for shooting pressure. A national average of 3.5 young per year are successfully fledged per breeding pair. In Michigan, the population merely maintains stability with a fledged success average of 2.2 young per year/pair. An average of only two or three nesting attempts are made during the season in Michigan; in hot southern climates as many as five or six attempts can be made in some states. It is important to note: "attempts" do not suggest success.
The Mourning Dove is the only known species hunted during part of their nesting season. Over 10 percent of all fledging occurs during the months of September and October. If one parent is killed from nests with eggs or young, the remaining adult is most commonly unable to successfully fledge squabs - who will both die in the nest of starvation. Commissioners cruelly consider this "acceptable losses"
Mourning doves are beneficial to man; as a generalist, they are primarily seed eaters who feed on the ground. The seeds of pest weeds, waste grain, or other plant material make about 99 percent of their diet. They do not cause damage to crops, are not over-populated, and do not threaten or harm any other species.
Although considered a migratory bird, "migration" in the mourning dove is often misunderstood because they are a dimorphic species: one segment of the population migrates - and the other does not. The mourning dove's winter range has been gradually moving north year by year and Michigan harbors a large resident non-migrating population. It is important to note, this is the portion of the population that is targeted with the removal of the protected songbird status.
The mourning dove is one of the longest lived free-living species in the Bird Banding Lab Database, holding a record of 31 years 4 months. This record is held amongst species of Albatross and Terns.
The natural mortality rate for the mourning dove holds the same average mortality rate as other songbird species in any given area. Dove hunting propaganda would lead you to believe that hunting does not contribute "at all" in reducing dove numbers - this claim is untrue. Dove populations from groups of non-hunting states in the Northeast and Upper Mideast have much higher annual survival rates.
The natural life span of free-living doves ranges between 7-11 years. The breeding population and most nests that are successful occur in doves over 1.5 years of age. In states where the dove is hunted, the life span for banded doves is commonly between 1-1.5 years. Comparably, non-hunting states have significantly higher survival rates and report stable populations than do hunting states, which often report declining populations.
Recent scientific research of population densities within the Eastern, Central, and Western Management Units have shown a significant decline in all three Units during the past 10 and 40 year periods. During this time, dove hunting has been legalized in many "new" states and the decline in some states has shown to be significant and accumulative in only 10 years...especially in the northern most range of these Units.
Michigan's peak dove population is about one percent of the total estimated Mourning Dove population in the United States.
Dove shooting proponents reluctantly concede that hunting is not needed to "manage" the mourning dove population and that there is no environmental or reasonable reason to use doves as a "consumptive resource" in Michigan.
The mourning dove is known as Michigan's official Bird of Peace. Since 4500 bc, doves have been revered as symbols of peace, love, and virility. The mourning dove inherited the stature of bird of peace.
The fossil record is known to trace the birds back 1.8 million years in the Americas. Mourning doves have proven to be quite adaptable to change and have successfully coexisted with man throughout the centuries.
Mourning dove behavior and the connection Michigan citizens have today with doves as a traditional songbird, has made them an important part of a multi-billion dollar backyard bird watching and feeding industry. More people feed birds than watch football, baseball, or any other sport. Bird hobbyists out number all hunters and anglers combined.
The mourning dove is the closest relative of the passenger pigeon. The passenger pigeon was hunted to extinction by shooters within the span of only a few decades. Prior to extinction, it was America's most abundant gamebird - five billion strong.
Historically, mourning doves were not commercially hunted in the United States. The emergence as a gamebird is a comparatively recent phenomenon which started in the deep south, where big shoots are said to be lengthy "shootin', pickin', partyin'" affairs.
Ammunition deposits in dove shooting fields pose a lingering environmental management problem with an accumulative effect. This effect, as reported in studies, represents a real threat to populations of mourning doves as well as other wildlife populations feeding in the area.
Dove hunting is nothing more than the shooting at living targets - target practice. Dove hunters admit to enjoying fast flying targets and their main component of testimony flows around the "fun" aspects of shooting a fast erratic flyer. Dove hunters refer to mourning doves as "a disposable animal, cheap skeet, winged warriors from hell, rats with wings, locusts, darters, little gray rockets, devious birds, kamikaze pilots, fast-balls, jinkers, screwballs, snuffers, elusive targets, tricks, torpedoes, warp burners, zippers, zingers..."
Hunting doves is very inexpensive and does not contribute to the economy or tourism, as some might lead you to believe. Even the MUCC confirms "the inexpensive nature of the sport, since the birds are found almost everywhere in these states, hunters needn't travel far." Furthermore, doves are generally used as "warm up practice" for other seasons covered under the same "blanket" license of small game, so an additional license purchase is not required and the DNR analysis states "it is not expected that a mourning dove hunting season will result in additional sales of small game licenses."
Unretrieved and wounded birds are an undeniably cruel result of dove season. Finding downed birds is very difficult due to the effective camouflage color which blends within dove habitat. Additionally, shots taken are not clear kill shots which result in a significant crippling loss rate of about 30 percent.
The adult mourning dove's weight changes considerably throughout the year. The lightest body weight for both males and females occurs during the months of September and October - during hunting season. They do not provide a viable human food source. Most recipes call only for dove breasts -- the fastest and most popular method of dressing doves is referred to as "breasting-out." A properly shot dove yields about one ounce of edible flesh. Dove recipes show breasts to be covered in sauces and heavy seasoning due to strong pungent citrus flavor.
The majority of avid hunters and sportsmen clearly express personal beliefs and adamantly oppose the "hunting" of doves, cranes, or wild pigeons as legitimate game species.
Many avian species (including protected, threatened, and endangered) are mistakenly shot by mourning dove hunters who target birds on the wing. The misidentification of fast erratic flyers is an unfortunate mistake that happens to both experienced and inexperienced hunters alike.
The American kestrel, a federally protected falcon, is often mistakenly shot by mourning dove hunters because of its similar flight pattern, size, and preferred habitat.
Despite laws in other states which prohibit the shooting of doves on utility lines, it is evident from authoritative outdoor publications that dove hunters encourage shooting near power and telephone lines.
Special interests, in a desperate attempt to cover the weakness and ugliness of their position, dismissively attempt to label citizens who object to doves being slaughtered as "emotional, unreasonable, or anti-hunting," or accuse people of "impinging and inflicting morality upon others."
Several recent and historic statewide public opinion polls have repeatedly shown the majority of Michigan citizens, including the majority of Michigan hunters, are opposed to dove hunting in Michigan.
Historically, the Natural Resource Commission, with the assistance of the Department of Natural Resources, bypassed the legislature, ignored significant public opposition, and illegally established a mourning dove season in Michigan. Due to the blatant violation of public trust, the courts  issued a permanent injunction that the DNR/NRC cannot promote the hunting of doves in Michigan. The DNR and NRC have since violated this injunction several times.
The mourning dove belongs to all citizens of Michigan and the majority want them to remain a protected species. The law protects our right to participate in this decision through our legislative representation.
We are the majority, we remember, and we vote!
- Songbird Protection Coalition