Animal of the issue: Mourning Dove

BY BRIANA MAGISTRO

SC Staff Writer

“Coo-OOO! Coo… Coo…”

One of the most common and distinguishable birdcalls to hear in North America, heard in habitats ranging from small forests to city suburbs, would be the song of the Mourning Dove.

Also known as Turtle Doves, these birds can reside almost anywhere in North America, excluding deep forests. The Mourning Dove is the most common of the doves.

It has a plump figure and a long, slender tail. With small black spots, yellow or orange rings around the pupils, and a bobbing walk, the Mourning Dove resembles one of its close cousins, the pigeon. The Mourning Dove can have gray- to tan-colored feathers.

Unlike many other species, migration is optional for Mourning Doves. They have been documented to fly past the Gulf of Mexico, or stay in Canada during the winter season. Some doves stay in the same habitat all year round.

Flocks, which typically vary in numbers, usually sleep and eat together. They can also intermingle with other flocks, including those of other species, such as sparrows and chickadees.

Mourning Doves mate for life. This means that they will mate with the same partner every year. If the doves decide to migrate to different places, they will meet up in the spring near their usual mating territory.

These doves have adapted to a wide range of habitats. When living in cities or suburbs, dirty water sources are not a problem, since they can stomach brackish water.

In humans, brackish water can cause serious dehydration. In cities, doves have also been seen making their nests in objects like ashtrays.

Mourning Doves are most often seen foraging on the ground. So, if you have a bird feeder on a stand, you may want to leave some seed underneath it for the doves. Some doves have been witnessed knocking seed out of feeders just to eat it off of the ground.

Doves are covetous eaters and can eat up to twenty percent of their body weight per day. Seeds from natural sources, such as grasses, weeds, sunflowers, and nuts, compile a large portion of a dove’s diet.

The dove will gulp down a large amount of food and store it in an organ called the crop. Crops can be found in most birds and are basically a storage pouch for whole food.

Once inside the crop, the food may not necessarily begin to be digested. At this point, the food can then either be swallowed or spit up to feed baby birds.

Crops are sometimes called “gizzards.” A gizzard can also be a sack that some reptiles, such as crocodiles, possess.

For reptiles, the gizzard holds small stones to help grind up large chunks of meat swallowed by the reptilian predator. Fossils indicate that a gizzard may have been used to aid digestion in dinosaurs.

According to the fossil record, the first real crop may have existed in pterosaurs. This is one of the biggest connections between birds and reptiles.

Unlike its reptilian ancestors, the dove represents peace. In European history, the dove makes an appearance in the story of Noah’s Ark. According to the story, a dove presents Noah with an olive branch. This represented that land was near, and God was at peace with his people.

Email Briana at:

bmagistro@live.esu.edu

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