Nature's walking stick; when a royal becomes a ragamuffin; a ubiquitous but rare species; mourning glory; more.
In Canada and the northern United States, mourning doves, named for their doleful cooing, are starting to migrate south. But you'll still find some in all the contiguous states, southern Alaska, and even Hawaii (where they've been introduced). Listen for the sharp whistle of wings as they take to the air, and watch their swift, erratic flight. Mourning doves are our most popular game species by far. Each year American hunters kill something like 20 million--more than all other migratory game birds combined. Yet the population appears to be increasing. In this regard the mourning dove is the opposite of its cousin, the extinct passenger pigeon, described by Aldo Leopold as a "biological storm" and "the lightning that played between two opposing potentials of intolerable intensity: the fat of the land and the oxygen of the air." While the razing of forests and the plowing of prairies helped bring about the passenger pigeon's demise (probably more so than uncontrolled hunting), this same habitat destruction brought an explosion of highly adaptable, grain-swilling mourning doves, whose fall population is now estimated at about 400 million. What's more, mourning doves have the longest breeding season--February through October--of any North American bird, and in the warmer parts of their range they've been seen to fledge six broods a year.