Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Friday, June 1, 2007

This year's Mourning Dove Survey

Every spring since 1988, I've headed out one morning at 4 am to conduct a Mourning Dove Survey for the US Fish and Wildlife Service. It's a lovely little ritual. This year only one person stopped by and asked me what I was doing out there. Most of the time when people stop to question me, they're concerned that I'm having car trouble. The guy who stopped by today seemed more concerned that I was some sort of threat standing out there on a rural road early in the morning. It's frustrating to have to answer questions when I'm on a tight schedule to count for exactly 3 minutes, then drive to the next stop so the 20-stop count takes precisely 2 hours. My options are to be polite and risk chatty people or to be brisk and even curt, which isn't a very good way to serve as an ambassador for birds. It's a growing problem--as more and more people move to the countryside and commute to Duluth for work, I encounter more and more cars on this and my Breeding Bird Survey route, and have to deal with more and more people stopping. But when there aren't cars about, it's lovely to listen to all the bird song.

I heard two doves today, and saw one of them. The photos were taken in Amherst, Ohio, this weekend, right outside our motel room.


  1. Why are mourning doves counted,in particular, as opposed to other species? (Out here on the east coast, they're fairly common.)

    BTW I love this blog!

  2. Mourning Doves are surveyed because they're a game bird--the most hunted species in America. They're the only game bird that isn't managed by improving habitat or anything like that, since they are most abundant in agricultural areas and backyards. But it is the responsibility of the Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure that the gamebird population remains strong, so they've been conducting this survey for many decades.

  3. Dear Laura,
    Many survey participants have little cards printed up: "I'm conducting a timed bird survey for..." That can save hassle if you just hand one to the well-meaning (or to the others, too).

  4. Yeah--I forgot to bring my BBS one this time. But last year four or five people stopped and still asked, when the sign was in place! Especially when it's still on the dark side first thing in the morning, when the sign is hard to read AND it's most weird to people to run into someone standing on the side of a road for no apparent reason, it's natural for them to wonder. And many of them really do mean well.

  5. Laura, maybe you could get a t-shirt with "I'm counting mourning doves" printed on it.

    Should I count the mourning doves in my back yard? They don't outnumber the sparrows, but quite a few hang out here.

    I was very glad when the voters of Michigan passed a referendum overturning the Republican-dominated legislature's vote to make mourning doves a game bird.

  6. Very nice blog Laura! Thank you for telling me. I love the Mourning Doves and Sparrows. It is very nice you were able to see the newborn fawn while birding as an extra bonus for the day. Thank you for taking its picture for us and taking us back to the beautiful North Woods of Wisconsin. Enjoy the rest of your trip.

  7. I love the Mourning Dove photos.