Are Mourning Doves Protected?


The mourning dove is native to the USA and is hunted in 41 states.

It is protected in the other 9 states.

In the UK, the mourning dove is protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

are mourning doves protected

Mourning Doves in the USA

Also known as the turtle dove and the rain dove, the Mourning dove is a populous native American bird.  

According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the US population of mourning doves population in the USA is about 400 million.

About 24 million (6 percent) are killed by hunters each year.

Mourning doves and other migratory birds are a national resource protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

However, the mourning dove is the most hunted migratory game bird in North America.

mourning dove in flowering tree

Doves are considered game birds and dove hunting in the USA enables the shooting of mourning doves however, there are specific conditions.

The mourning dove can only be hunted in season and a hunting license is required.

The dove hunting season begins on September 1st every year.

Season end dates vary by state so check your local laws.

Dove hunters also have to abide by shooting hours – again they vary by state but the times are usually around just before sunrise to sunset.

To hunt mourning doves, hunters also have to sign up to the Harvest Information Program, a data-gathering process undertaken by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

moruning dove in flowers

Hunting mourning doves out of season or without a license can result in a fine and loss of license.

There are nine US states in which the mourning dove is protected. These are

  • Alaska
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Vermont

You may have noticed that the states are the northeastern and the Great Lake states. This is because the population is naturally lower in these areas.

It is important that dove hunters in the USA know their birds well because the Eurasian collared dove is not a native species and it can be hunted year-round.

You need to be able to identify the difference between mourning doves and Eurasian collared doves to avoid falling foul of the law.

Mourning Doves in the UK

The mourning dove is the UK’s smallest species of pigeon and only just a bit bigger than a blackbird. 

The hunting of mourning doves in the UK is much more emotive a subject than in the USA.

Although every wild bird is protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act which makes it illegal to kill or injure ANY wild bird, there are caveats that enable wild birds to be treated as pests.

Essentially if any bird is considered to be a nuisance to agriculture or human habitats, the bird can be culled or hunted.

protected mourning dove

Mostly this applies to wood and feral pigeons.

Technically, mourning doves are pigeons but there are a couple of things in its favour when it comes to being a target for hunting – or not, as it turns out.

The mourning dove is very different in appearance from the pigeons that are hunted so it is unlikely that hunters will shoot them by mistake.

Also, the British have a rather romantic sentiment about doves.

Even though most imagine the dove to be the characteristic white bird and others will know the soft grey collared dove, the dove is a symbolic bird and this “protects” it from being hunted.

Lastly, the breeds of doves in the UK are nowhere near the number of pigeons, so doves are not considered a pest species targeted by farmers or pest control authorities.

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