Nav: Home

Is intensive agriculture reducing mourning dove reproduction in the eastern US?

March 11, 2020

Populations of some common bird species, including the familiar Mourning Dove, have been on the decline for decades in North America. Agricultural lands can support bird populations, but agricultural intensification can also cause populations to decline -- so what role are changes in American agriculture playing for Mourning Doves? New research published in The Condor: Ornithological Applications shows that relatively small changes in the amount of land used for different types of agriculture may be related to big changes in how many young doves are produced.

Pennsylvania State University's David Muñoz and David Miller based their study on more than 150,000 Mourning Dove wings submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service between 2014 and 2018. A Mourning Dove's age can be estimated from the molt pattern of the wing feathers, and the age ratios of birds killed by hunters let researchers estimate doves' reproductive output in different regions. They found that although the specifics varied between locations, small changes in land cover were linked to large differences in reproductive output. In the central U.S., for example, the ratio of juvenile to adult Mourning Doves was 37.5% higher in counties with the highest proportion of small-grain agriculture such as oats, than in counties with no small-grain land cover. In the eastern U.S., nearly the same reproductive gains were seen with even a smaller increase in small-grain agriculture from 0% to 5% across counties. Greater proportions of intensive corn and soybean agriculture, on the other hand, were tied to lower reproductive output in the eastern U.S.

"As the human population keeps growing, it is important we find ways to use our land effectively for human benefit and wildlife. One way to do that is to understand the demographic responses of birds to these changes," says Muñoz. "Although agricultural production has been tied to bird reductions across the globe, we found that it is important to distinguish between certain types of agriculture, and that the patterns varied regionally across the United States. This means that in one part of the country, a certain type of land cover may be beneficial, but in a different part, it may not be. This makes it challenging to make generalizations between bird demography and response to global land-use change."

Still, Muñoz is hopeful that approaches like his can lead to meaningful changes in how conservation is practiced in agricultural landscapes. "By characterizing the relationship between land cover and reproduction, we believe that conservation efforts can focus on practices that improve reproductive habitat," he says. "Effective conservation will need to continue incorporating economic market pressures and policies that affect development and agricultural practices. Without doing so, it may be hard to influence conservation in human-dominated landscapes."
"Human-dominated landcover corresponds to spatial variation in Mourning Dove reproductive output across the United States" will be available March 11, 2020, at

About the journal: The Condor: Ornithological Applications is a peer-reviewed, international journal of ornithology, published by the American Ornithological Society. For the past three years, The Condor has had the number one impact factor among 27 ornithology journals.

American Ornithological Society Publications Office

Related Conservation Articles:

Conservation research on lynx
Scientists at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) and the Leibniz Institute for Molecular Pharmacology (Leibniz-FMP) discovered that selected anti-oxidative enzymes, especially the enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD2), may play an important role to maintain the unusual longevity of the corpus luteum in lynxes.
New 'umbrella' species would massively improve conservation
The protection of Australia's threatened species could be improved by a factor of seven, if more efficient 'umbrella' species were prioritised for protection, according to University of Queensland research.
Conservation's hidden costs take bite out of benefits
Scientists show that even popular conservation programs can harbor hidden costs, often for vulnerable populations.
Trashed farmland could be a conservation treasure
Low-productivity agricultural land could be transformed into millions of hectares of conservation reserve across the world, according to University of Queensland-led research.
Bats in attics might be necessary for conservation
Researchers investigate and describe the conservation importance of buildings relative to natural, alternative roosts for little brown bats in Yellowstone National Park.
Applying biodiversity conservation research in practice
One million species are threatened with extinction, many of them already in the coming decades.
Making conservation 'contagious'
New research reveals conservation initiatives often spread like disease, a fact which can help scientists and policymakers design programs more likely to be taken up.
Helping conservation initiatives turn contagious
New research shows that conservation initiatives go viral, which helps scientists and policymakers better design successful programs more likely to be adopted.
Overturning the truth on conservation tillage
Conservation tillage does not lower yield in modern cropping systems.
Talking to each other -- how forest conservation can succeed
Forest conservation can be a source of tension between competing priorities and interests from forestry, science, administration and nature conservation organizations.
More Conservation News and Conservation Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Mindset
In the past few months, human beings have come together to fight a global threat. This hour, TED speakers explore how our response can be the catalyst to fight another global crisis: climate change. Guests include political strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac, diplomat Christiana Figueres, climate justice activist Xiye Bastida, and writer, illustrator, and artist Oliver Jeffers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Speedy Beet
There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to our Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians: Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth. Support Radiolab today at