USFWS - Mourning Dove Call-Count Survey - 2001-2013

Latest version published by United States Geological Survey on Aug 31, 2016 United States Geological Survey
Publication date:
31 August 2016
CC0 1.0

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The Mourning Dove Call-count Survey was developed to provide an annual index to population size (Dolton 1993). This survey is based on work by McClure (1939) in Iowa. Field studies demonstrated the feasibility of the survey as a method for detecting annual changes in mourning dove breeding populations (Foote and Peters 1952). In the United States, the survey currently includes more than 1,000 randomly selected routes, stratified by physiographic region. The total number of doves heard on each route is used to determine trends in populations and provides the basis for determining an index to population size during the breeding season. Within the United States, there are 3 zones that contain mourning dove populations that are largely independent of each other (Kiel 1959). These zones encompass the principal breeding, migration, and U.S. wintering areas for each population. As suggested by Kiel (1959), these 3 areas were established as separate management units in 1960 (Kiel 1961). Since that time, management decisions have been made within the boundaries of the Eastern (EMU), Central (CMU), and Western (WMU) Management Units. Each call-count route is usually located on secondary roads and has 20 listening stations spaced at 1-mile intervals. At each stop, the number of doves heard calling, the number seen, and the level of disturbance (noise) that impairs the observer's ability to hear doves are recorded. The number of doves seen while driving between stops is also noted. Counts begin one-half hour before sunrise and continue for about 2 hours. Routes are run once between 20 May and 5 June. Intensive studies in the eastern United States (Foote and Peters 1952) indicated that dove calling is relatively stable during this period. Surveys are not made when wind velocities exceed 12 miles per hour or when it is raining. Again, more detailed information about survey procedures or analyses of these data can be found in the annual Mourning Dove Breeding Population Status report on the Division of Migratory Bird Management web site ( The mourning dove (Zenaida macroura) is a migratory bird, thus, authority and responsibility for its management is vested in the Secretary of the Interior. This responsibility is conferred by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which, as amended, implements migratory bird treaties between the United States and other countries. Mourning doves are included in the treaties with Great Britain (for Canada) and Mexico. These treaties recognize sport hunting as a legitimate use of a renewable migratory bird resource. As one of the most abundant species in both urban and rural areas of North America, it is familiar to millions of people. Maintenance of mourning dove populations in a healthy, productive state is a primary management goal. To this end, management of doves includes assessment of population status, regulation of harvest, and habitat management. Call-count surveys are conducted annually in the 48 conterminous states by state and federal biologists to monitor mourning dove populations. The resulting information on status and trends is used by wildlife administrators to set annual hunting regulations.


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Occurrence; Observation


Becky Rau
  • Originator
  • Point Of Contact
Data Administrator, Branch of Population & Habitat Assessment
11510 American Holly Drive
20708 Laurel
(301) 497-5862
Derek Masaki
  • Metadata Provider
United States Geological Survey (USGS)
12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, Mailstop 302
20192 Reston
(703) 648-4365

Geographic Coverage

United States lower 48 states

Bounding Coordinates South West [25.03, -126.37], North East [50.16, -65.23]

Temporal Coverage

Start Date / End Date 2001-01-01 / 2013-12-31

Additional Metadata