Region Wildlife Division and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists monitor Louisiana's breeding mourning dove population along 19 randomly selected routes throughout the state in late May by counting cooing doves. The survey is used as an index to dove populations in Louisiana and, together with other states' surveys, for the nation.
Population trend of resident breeding mourning doves in Louisiana has been stable since 1966. Year to year variations may occur due to weather and other environmental influences. However, since doves are migratory, the number of doves found in Louisiana, particularly late in the hunting season, is influenced by population trends in other production states. Dove populations have been stable during the last 10 years in the eastern U.S.
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries along with 25 other states' fish and wildlife agencies began a 3-year banding study this past summer (2003). Its objectives are to determine harvest rates, estimate annual survival, provide information on the geographical distribution of the harvest and develop and refine techniques for a future operational dove banding program. We banded almost 1,300 doves in Louisiana this year and it's expected that over 85,000 doves will be banded by all states during the course of the study. Hunters are a critical link to the mourning dove study. By reporting your banded doves, you help us manage this important migratory bird. If you harvest a banded mourning dove, please call 1-800-327-BAND (2263) to report it.
Region and Program personnel work together to enhance dove hunting opportunities on WMAs by manipulating native vegetation or Dove Field Management. They also coordinate leasing of private land by LDWF for public dove hunts.
Upland Game and Region biologists provide technical assistance to numerous landowners on the most effective and legal means to prepare dove fields for hunting. They also prepare and distribute educational materials to inform land managers about dove field preparation and management. Program personnel assisted LSU Cooperative Extension Service in developing a planting guideline for wildlife food plots.
Other Dove Notes:
There are currently at least 5 other different species of dove breeding in Louisiana: Ground, Inca, white-winged, rock (common pigeons), and Eurasian collared-doves. The latter is an exotic that is rapidly spreading across the south. At this time, the impact of the Eurasian collared-doves on mourning doves is unknown. It is larger and more aggressive than the native mourning dove.
Woodcock populations have been decreasing across North America. It is difficult to quantify the rate of decline because woodcock do not lend themselves to traditional survey techniques. However, the only index of breeding woodcock populations, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Singing Ground Survey, indicates about 1.5% and 2.5% declines per year in the central and eastern U.S., respectively, since 1968. The declining woodcock population is thought to be due primarily to loss of early successional habitat (primarily aspen) in the northern breeding ground states. However, because Louisiana is at the end of the flyway, this population decline is not always evident. Louisiana's wintering woodcock population is influenced primarily by weather. Louisiana will usually have high numbers of wintering woodcock during cold, wet winters.
Upland Game biologists have been involved in a woodcock banding project (see documents section) Sherburne WMA/ Atchafalaya NWR since 1990. This project is designed to determine woodcock harvest rates from a heavily hunted area. Since most woodcock habitat is hunted lightly or not hunted at all, this would represent a "worst case" and not a typical situation. To date, over 2,000 woodcock have been banded. Raw woodcock harvest rates on this complex range from less than 1% to slightly more than 10%.
Woodcock hunting and band recovery data are collected from woodcock hunters on Sherburne WMA and Atchafalaya NWR via mandatory self-clearing check stations. These data are used to monitor woodcock harvest (see documents section), hunter success, and hunt characteristics.
Banding at Sherburne WMA/Atchafalaya NWR has illustrated that woodcock are longer lived relative to quail and that the birds hold a good degree of fidelity to their wintering grounds. Each year, 5-15 birds captured from prior banding seasons are recaptured. Most birds at recapture are 1-2 years old. However, several birds over 4 years old have been recaptured. About 60% of the birds banding in 1 year and recaptured in another were caught in the same field as originally banded. One bird was caught 3 times in 3 different years, but in the same field. Although woodcock are technically shorebirds, young forests and scrub/thickets that are moist compose their daytime habitat. It is at dusk, when woodcock frequently fly to open fields and clearcuts, and during the night when they feed in these areas that they illustrate habits more typically associated with other shorebirds. The Cajun Becasse Chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society has funded some of the management activities on the Sherburne WMA/Atchafalaya NWR that are beneficial to woodcock as well as a host of other wildlife species. Woodcock in the Southeast: Natural History & Management for Landowners is an excellent reference publication.
Program personnel participate in the annual woodcock wing-bee. This is a gathering of biologists that age and sex approximately 10,000 woodcock wings submitted by hunters each year from throughout the U.S. Indices to production, hunter success, and harvest characteristics are determined. This information is used to monitor trends in woodcock population and harvest on a statewide, regional, and national level. The Department hosts
the wingbee about every 5 years.