Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wildlife biologist Ryan Williamson is in full swing of trapping and banding this small game bird.
Mourning doves are one of the most widely distributed and abundant birds in North America, and are also a popular game bird with hunting seasons established in 40 of the lower 48 states. As part of an effort to estimate population size, harvest rates and regulations, mourning doves are banded throughout the United States including within Montana’s Region 6.
“Banding mourning doves helps wildlife managers estimate population size and harvest rates for the species, and this in turn is used in the federal framework to establish dove hunting regulations for each state,” says Williamson, who is assisting with banding operations in Montana.
In Region 6, dove banding sites are established using wire funnel traps baited with grain to capture mourning doves. Doves are then aged and sexed based upon feather color and patterns of feather replacement and wear.
“Doves are marked with metal leg bands containing a unique number and a website and phone number that hunters can use to report the band,” Williamson says. “In return, wildlife managers receive important information on the number of banded doves harvested, and the locations and dates of harvest.”
More than 18,000 doves are trapped and banded yearly in the 14 states of the Central Management Unit, which Montana is located in.
Hunters are a crucial link to mourning dove band returns,” Williamson went on. “By checking all harvested doves for bands and reporting banded doves, you help manage this important migratory game bird resource.”
Williamson also says the same goes for any banded bird. “It’s quick, easy, and you get to see where and when that bird was banded. The story that band will tell can be very interesting.”
“What I find most interesting about dove banding is the returns from previous years,” said Williamson. “This year, I have recaptured birds from all years I have banded starting in 2014. To think of how many miles some of these birds have seen is the neatest part about it. In addition, I had a bird that I banded last summer that was harvested in South Texas three months later and 1,400 miles south of here.”
Because some bands are very small, hunters can easily overlook them. Williamson reminds hunters to carefully check all harvested doves and waterfowl for the presence of a leg band. If you harvest a banded migratory bird, please report it by logging on to http://www.reportband.gov/RECFORM.CFM. One change to note, banded migratory birds can no longer be reported by the phone number on the band. This must be completed on the website.