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I’m thinking now of a room bathed in morning sunlight and of lace curtains floating on a breeze. The coo of a Mourning Dove reaches my ear. The sound gently nudges me into awareness. The dove is somewhere in a garden, perched boldly on a fence top or peering shyly through a screen of leaves in the pear tree, the oak or perhaps the maple. The thought of a dove nearby cheers me.

Mourning Doves have come to symbolize peace. We associate them with romance, longing, and perhaps sorrow. Their call soothes the soul; their soft colouring and marblelike façade pleases the eye. No wonder they are a common muse for artists and poets.

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When the phrase “Mourning Dove hunting season” appeared on my computer screen during a research session, I blinked and read again. Surely I must be mistaken.

Last year, for the first time since 1955, Environment Canada announced a Mourning Dove hunting season in Ontario, from early September to mid November. Licensed hunters in specified rural areas, were permitted to take 15 doves per day with a maximum possession limit of 45 birds.

A startled outcry erupted from bird lovers, animal activist groups and the romantics among us. Officials quickly pointed out that British Columbia has held open season on Mourning Doves since 1960. The practice is common throughout the United States.

The Canadian government defended their decision on two fronts. First, The Mourning Dove has been recognized as a game bird  since 1916. Secondly, their numbers were abundant enough to sustain a harvest; experts projected that 1% of the mourning dove population would be affected.

Prior to this week, I didn’t know doves could wind up on a plate.  I’d heard of squab, but never realized that it was a discrete term for — pigeon or dove. This is not a meal for me, a thirteen year vegetarian.

Perhaps visions of Mourning Dove domesticity will cleanse my mental palette of the afore mentioned imagery. The Mourning doves’ ability to produce six broods per year, in warm climates, accounts for their abundant numbers across North America. When it’s time to nest, the male collects materials and passes them to the female. She takes charge of building. After the eggs are laid, the nest is never unattended.  The male dove sits on the eggs from morning until afternoon, when the female resumes her place on the nest.  The pairs lean toward monogamy, reuniting the following year or remaining together through the cold winter months.

Photo credit: Matt Fletcher
Photo credit: Matt Fletcher

Lead photo by Ben Tuinman

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