Program helps biologists track harvest, calculate population trends
PRATT -- For the seventh year, the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) is cooperating in a mourning dove banding project involving more than two dozen states. The agency is asking dove hunters to look for leg bands on the mourning doves they shoot during the regular dove season, which runs Sept. 1-Oct. 31 and Nov. 7-15. The purpose of this banding project is to estimate annual survival rates, harvest rates, and distribution of the harvest, as well as to refine techniques for future dove-banding projects. This data is necessary for understanding population trends and responsibly managing dove harvests.

Mourning doves are captured in wire ground traps baited with millet or sunflower. Open traps are set and baited for several days until the doves get used to going in and out of the traps to eat the seed. Once doves have become accustomed to the traps, funnels are attached that allow the birds to enter but not escape. Traps are checked regularly, and trapped doves are removed and carefully inspected to determine age and sex based upon feather color and patterns of feather replacement and wear. The doves are banded with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bands inscribed with unique numbers and a toll-free telephone number and/or a website. Then they are released.

Last year, 2,452 doves were banded in Kansas. In 2007, the harvest rate averaged 4.7 percent of the overall estimated dove population.

The hunter is a critical link in this study. By checking all harvested doves for bands, and reporting banded mourning doves, hunters help biologists manage this important migratory game bird. Because dove bands are small, hunters can easily overlook them. KDWP asks dove hunters to carefully check all doves bagged for the presence of a leg band.

Report banded mourning doves by phoning 1-800-327-BAND (2263). Banded birds may also be reported on the internet at Hunters can keep the bands and will be provided a certificate identifying the age, sex, date, and location the bird was banded.

In addition to the regular dove season, Kansas has a season for non-native Eurasian collared and ringed turtle doves. This season runs Nov. 20-Feb. 28, 2010. Four species of doves -- mourning, white-winged, Eurasian-collared, and ringed-turtle -- are legal to hunt in Kansas during the regular seasons; however, mourning doves are the only commonly-harvested dove species in the state and the only ones being banded.

Kansas typically has one of the largest mourning dove breeding populations and ranks in the top 10 in dove harvest. For more information on the dove-banding program in Kansas, phone Helen Hands at 620-793-3066 or email her at