Return Dove Band Numbers for New Study

Aug 23, 2022

Tall Timbers, in collaboration with several private hunting properties and the University of Georgia, began a project in the summer of 2022 to examine the populations and movement patterns of mourning doves in the Red Hills and Albany regions of Georgia and Florida. We are asking everyone to keep a close eye out for leg bands on any of your harvested birds during dove season.

Reporting your harvested banded birds directly to Tall Timbers will allow us to better understand the ecology and demographics of doves in this region. Reporting your band on the United States Geological Survey’s Bird Banding Laboratory’s band reporting website is also an option. However, the Bird Banding Laboratory only collects state level location data, so it will be less informative for our research on local dove populations.

The preferred option is to report the band directly to Tall Timbers by contacting Nicholas Lusson, the graduate student spearheading this project, via email (nlusson@talltimbers.org). Please include the band number, the date you harvested the bird, and the location where you harvested the birds (preferably a set of GPS coordinates, if possible). Harvest location coordinates will allow us to better understand the distance the dove traveled from the location it was banded to the location it was harvested. Have no fear, we will not release this more detailed location information and will only pass on the harvest state for the official Bird Banding Laboratory data.

For more information about the scope of the project, please see the following article originally published in our 2022 edition of Quail Call. Thank you in advance for the submission of any banded birds and good luck this year!

The 2022-23 mourning dove seasons for both Georgia and Florida are listed below.

  • Georgia: September 3rd- October 9th, November 19th-27th, and December 19th- January 31st
  • Florida: September 24th- October 16th, November 12th- December 4th, and December 19th- January 31st

Mourning Doves: The Other Highly Prized Bird

By Nicolas Lusson, Lead Game Bird Technician, originally published in the Summer 2022 edition of Quail Call. 

Dove hunting is an important cultural and economic activity in the Red Hills, with some fields in existence for over a hundred years. However, over the past decade dove use of properties has varied dramatically. Some properties now have so few doves at their managed fields that hunting no longer occurs, whereas other properties harvest several hundred to thousands of doves in a single season.

Most hunting and harvest in the Red Hills and Albany regions occur during the early phase of the dove season, which raises concern about the effect of harvest on local populations.

In addition to high variability of field use, there has been an overall observed decline in dove harvest across many properties in the region. Most hunting and harvest in the Red Hills and Albany regions occur during the early phase of the dove season, which raises concern about the effect of harvest on local populations.

There is also concern that the amount of dove fields in the area is causing the local population to disperse more widely across the landscape, reducing the apparent dove population. Several property managers and our research group have instigated a study, along with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Georgia Department of Natural Resources, to begin to explore these potential issues. We are interested in examining the movement patterns of mourning doves within and among the properties of the Red Hills and Albany regions of Georgia and Florida.

Also, we aim to calculate the harvest rates to compare with statewide rates in Georgia and Florida. Our primary approach for measuring these processes is banding a lot of doves relying on you dead-eye shooters to “capture” some of them! All we ask is that you report the band numbers to us!

Banding provides data on the geographical and temporal distribution of the dove harvest, origins of birds harvested, mortality, survival, longevity, differential vulnerability of age and sex classes to shooting, and other information useful to managing the species.

To monitor harvest rates, many states, such as Georgia and Florida, collaborate with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to band doves every year. Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) data reflects that dove populations have been growing in the region. However, recent anecdotal evidence based on banding data suggests a decline in dove populations or an increase in recovery rates. Finer scale information about the relationship between hunter harvest rates and dove populations would inform larger scale population processes and management.

In addition to information about the harvest rates, banding can be used to study movements. Finally, we can explore landscape features and management actions that lead to greater success in dove hunting.

I look forward to answering these questions as I transition from my role as a lead game bird technician here at Tall Timbers to a graduate student at the University of Georgia. For the last year I have worked in the Game Bird program at Tall Timbers, and have aided in the research and management of Northern Bobwhite. My focus will now shift to trapping and banding mourning doves throughout the Red Hills region; I look forward to hear from you on any banded birds you harvest.

About the Author
Nicholas Lusson
Nicholas is the Lead Game Bird Technician in the Game Bird Program at Tall Timbers. However, he will be transitioning from his role as the Lead Technician over to graduate student at the University of Georgia. In cooperation with the University of Georgia and Tall Timbers, he will be investigating the harvest rates and movement patterns of mourning doves in the Red Hills and Albany Regions of Georgia and Florida.
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