Mourning dove hunting season starts Wednesday

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 30, 2004

As Minnesota hunters prepare for the state’s first mourning dove hunting season in nearly 60 years, the debate continues over the bird’s conflicted public image.

While the mourning dove is the most popular and abundant game bird in the country, it’s also commonly found at urban backyard bird feeders and has taken on more of a songbird image.

Many opponents of the law that re-established the mourning dove hunting season argue doves shouldn’t be hunted because they are &uot;the bird of peace.&uot;

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&uot;The mourning dove, in the Biblical sense, is not the bird of peace,&uot; said Jim Berdeen, a biologist with the Department of Natural Resources, who has studied doves. &uot;People who are anti-dove hunting are trying to raise an issue.&uot;

Carrol Henderson, nongame wildlife program supervisor for the state Department of Natural Resources, agrees.

The mourning dove likely got its image as the bird of peace from the Biblical story of Noah and the Great Flood. Henderson said the mourning dove is native to North America, so it could not have been the same bird Noah sent out to see if the flood had subsided.

The Biblical references &uot;would be referring to one of the native doves from the Middle East, like the white turtledove,&uot; Henderson said.

The assumption that the dove is a songbird is also wrong.

&uot;The mourning dove technically is not a songbird,&uot; Henderson said. &uot;They have a different structure in their larynx and different feather patterns. But people often group them with songbirds because they a common backyard bird.&uot;

Historically, the birds were hunted here for decades, but that ended after the 1946 season. This spring, the Legislature narrowly approved legalizing a mourning dove hunt, making Minnesota one of 40 states where such hunting is allowed.

But those who oppose hunting the birds remain upset.

A &uot;Vigil for the Doves&uot; will be held at the State Capitol from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday, the eve of the mourning dove hunting season.