U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

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Division of  Migratory Bird Management

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Mourning Dove Call-count Survey

The survey covers most, but not all, of the breeding range.  Since no effort is presently made to estimate detection probability for observers conducting the survey, it is not possible to estimate absolute abundance from the counts obtained.  When analyzing survey data, observer data should be used as a covariable in trend estimation to adjust for differences in observers' ability to hear mourning doves.

Data contained herein is summarized at the route level only.  Currently, we lack the ability to provide users with the computer programs required to estimate trends from such data.  To estimate state and regional trends, we calculate weighted averages from individual routes for each area of interest.  For example, estimates for each state are weighted by the land area of physiographic regions within each respective state.  Extrapolating our estimated trend statistic (% change per year) over time (e.g. 40 years) may exaggerate the total change over time.

Additional information on estimating population trends and indices can be found in the Mourning Dove Population Status report located on the Division of Migratory Bird Management's website (http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/reports/reports.html).

Becky Rau
Data Administrator
, Branch of Population & Habitat Assessment
Division of Migratory Bird Management, USFWS
11510 American Holly Drive
Laurel, MD 20708
voice mail:  (301) 497-5862
fax:  (301) 497-5871


Dolton, D.D. 1993. The call-count survey: historic development and current procedures. Pages 233-252 in T.S.Baskett, M.W. Sayre, R.E. Tomlinson, and R.E. Mirarchi, eds., Ecology and management of the mourning dove. Stackpole Books, Harrisburg, PA.

Fenneman, N. M. 1931. Physiography of the western United States. McGraw Hill Book Co., New York, NY. 534 pp.

Foote, L.E. and H.S. Peters. 1952. Pages 1-2 in Investigations of methods of appraising the abundance of mourning doves. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Special Scientific Report--Wildlife 17.

Kiel, W.H. 1959. Mourning dove management units, a progress report. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Special Scientific Report--Wildlife 42.

____. 1961. The mourning dove program for the future. Transactions of the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference 26:418-435.

McClure, H.E. 1939. Cooing activity and censusing of the mourning dove. Journal of Wildlife Management 3:323- 328.


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.


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 (http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/reports/reports.html).


A route-level count summary database derived from the Mourning Dove Call-Count Survey is made available online through the FWS/USGS Migratory Bird Data Center.

Not Run Routes
A route was not run in a particular year if the following fields are simultaneously zero filled:  month, day, totalsn, totalhrd, tlsnstop, tlsndriv.  Missing data in multiple fields is also an indicator.  Within the obscode field, 'Not' indicates Not Run.


Field Name

Field Definition


General description of route location


The year the survey was run


Numeric code given to individual states State codes


4 digit numeric code identifying route


Observer code that enables users to identify changes in route observers


Name of the county that the route is in


3 digit numeric code based on Fenneman's map (Fenneman,
N.M. 1931) featuring physical divisions of the U.S.


Date the survey was conducted


Sunrise civilian time at beginning of route


Wind speed (Beaufort scale) at start of survey


Wind speed (Beaufort scale) at end of survey


Temperature F at start of survey


Temperature F at end of survey


Civilian time recorded at stop 1 before listening time


Civilian time recorded at stop 20 before listening time


Total doves seen while driving and stopped stops 1 - 21


Total doves heard stops 1 - 20


Total doves seen stopped stops 1 - 20


Total doves seen driving between stops 1 - 21


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