Today's Featured Critter: Zenaida macroura
The mourning dove (Zenaida macroura) is a member of the dove family (Columbidae). The bird is also called the turtle dove or the American mourning dove or rain dove, and formerly was known as the Carolina pigeon or Carolina turtledove. It is one of the most abundant and widespread of all North American birds. It is also the leading gamebird, with more than 20 million birds (up to 70 million in some years) shot annually in the U.S., both for sport and for meat. Its ability to sustain its population under such pressure stems from its prolific breeding: in warm areas, one pair may raise up to six broods a year. Its plaintive woo-OO-oo-oo-oo call gives the bird its name. The wings can make an unusual whistling sound upon take-off and landing. The bird is a strong flier, capable of speeds up to 88 km/h (55 mph). Mourning doves are light grey and brown and generally muted in color. Males and females are similar in appearance. The species is generally monogamous, with two squabs (young) per brood. Both parents incubate and care for the young. Mourning doves eat almost exclusively seeds, but the young are fed crop milk by their parents. Full article...
Did You Know?
- drink by suction, without lifting or tilting its head.
Pair of doves in late winter in Minnesota
- lack a preen gland, and maintains luster and waterproofs of its feathers by preening, rubbing the dust from the powder-down feathers which grow throughout its plumage.
- are likely to offer a greeting when approaching another, in which both partially folded wings are raised over the back.
- Pairs of doves will often be in close proximity, especially on sleeping and loafing perches, and perform allogrooming. Unpaired birds keep a greater distance from others, and do not allogroom. Allopreening focuses on the area of the body that the bird cannot reach to groom themselves: the head and upper neck. Contact in this part of the body seems to be pleasurable, whereas contact elsewhere is usually rebuffed. Allopreening helps to break and remove the sheath of new itchy pin feathers, and removes ectoparasites from this sensitive area.
- In general, the preening, bathing, showering, greeting, stretching, territorial defense, spacing and allogrooming of Mourning Doves resemble that of Cockatiels and many other birds, and we wonder if these behaviors are common to all in the Superorder Psittacimorphae.
- When two Mourning Doves are seen in flight, they are often a pair. When three are seen, they are sometimes an intruder, chased by a male, who is followed by his partner. more...
ZipcodeZoo is a free online encyclopedia intended to document all known living species and infraspecies. It is compiled from existing authoritative databases. Originally launched in 2004, ZipcodeZoo provides a comprehensive compilation of information for each species, subspecies, cultivar and Variety. At this writing, we have published 4.3 million pages, including 3,167,594 pages describing individual species and infraspecies, and 413,455 pages describing higher taxa.
There is more to come. Only about 450,000 images have been imported so far, and we have about 600,000 more awaiting import. We hope to host over a million photos in the coming months. With pages for most species now available, we are turning our attention to improving the content of these pages... more...
Our first apps for cell phones and other devices are nearing completion. They'll use some search pages at Lookup.Life, and you may do your own searches on this sister site through your desktop browser, as well.
Will you help save the Amazon pink river dolphin?
We are calling for an end to the illegal hunting of the Amazon pink river dolphin (Boto). These endangered dolphins are used as bait to catch Piracatinga, a type of catfish. They are illegally captured and tied to submerged trees by their tail – all while still alive. Once the fishermen are done with them, they return to kill them. With your help, we’re asking the Colombian government to end the sale of Piracatinga and improve law enforcement to protect dolphins. We know change is possible as Brazil has already committed to putting in place changes that will protect Boto dolphins. Now, it’s Colombia’s turn. Will you take action and help save these wonderful creatures?
Ontario's curbs on insecticide may protect bees. Beekeepers welcomed the move by Ontario, the first North American government to curb use of seed treated with neonicotinoids, which are used to kill insects that harm crops.
Ontario, Canada's biggest producer of corn and soybeans, said that it aims to reduce by 80 percent the acres planted with neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seed by 2017. Fruits and vegetables need pollinators like bees to grow and a federal agency has linked bee deaths to neonicotinoids.
If approved, new rules will go into place by July 1, 2015. [more...]
This year the Chesapeake Bay Foundation planted more than 29 million native oysters on reefs and 10,000 trees along streambanks, and gave more than 35,000 students and teachers unforgettable experiences on our rivers, streams, and Bay so that they will learn to love and protect these waters like we do. [more...]
Bird watchers must be good bird listeners, for birds are usually heard before they are seen, if they are seen at all.
The sounds that an animal makes often reveal their sex, age, health, species, emotional state, individual identity, and where they are from. But to the human ear, they may seem little more than "quack" or "bark". We are working to change that.
Our project is code-named AudiOh!, and its mission is to disentangle the information embedded in a quack or bark, and reveal it. As part of that project, we are improving our database of sounds, which currently includes 160,168 sounds and sonograms for 17,725 of the 58,520 birds on this site, and is on-track to reach many more in the next few months.
For an experienced birder listening to a common local bird, audio identification might be straightforward, but to those new to bird watching, this task is difficult. The task is also difficult for software, because:
- Each bird speaks with its own personal dialect within a regional dialect for the species, allowing other birds to identify it individually from voice alone. Such individual variations might make it easier for one bird to identify another, but they make it more difficult for software to identify the bird at even the species level.
- In addition, a bird's song or call can convey information about where they are from, their age, sex, health, and other qualities. Each quality produces variations that might escape human notice, are obviously important to birds, and confusing to recognition software.
- While the words might all sound like "honk" or "quack", in fact each bird has dozens of "words" that have very particular meanings. A Bluejay's announcement call denotes whether it has found food, a fox, or a snake. Each of these calls sound different to other jays, different to the trained ear, and different to a computer trying to identify the sound.
- Birds process auditory information far faster than humans can, and so can "speak faster" -- packing more information into a few seconds.
We are now in the advanced stages of developing, testing, and revising our identification algorithms. The long-term goal of the AudiOh project is to create software that is light enough to run in a cell phone, and clever enough to accurately identify bird and animal sounds, and nimble enough to do this in real time. Along the way, we hope to contribute to the science of animal sounds. Various research papers will be linked from this page.