Photographed in Anahuac NWR
A graceful, slender-tailed, small-headed dove that’s common across the continent. Mourning Doves perch on telephone wires and forage for seeds on the ground; their flight is fast and bullet straight. Their soft, drawn-out calls sound like laments. When taking off, their wings make a sharp whistling or whinnying. Mourning Doves are the most frequently hunted species in North America.
During the breeding season, you might see three Mourning Doves flying in tight formation, one after another. This is a form of social display. Typically the bird in the lead is the male of a mated pair. The second bird is an unmated male chasing his rival from the area where he hopes to nest. The third is the female of the mated pair, which seems to go along for the ride.
Mourning Doves tend to feed busily on the ground, swallowing seeds and storing them in an enlargement of the esophagus called the crop. Once they’ve filled it (the record is 17,200 bluegrass seeds in a single crop!), they can fly to a safe perch to digest the meal.
Mourning Doves eat roughly 12 to 20 percent of their body weight per day, or 71 calories on average.
Perhaps one reason why Mourning Doves survive in the desert: they can drink brackish spring water (up to almost half the salinity of sea water) without becoming dehydrated the way humans would.
The Mourning Dove is the most widespread and abundant game bird in North America. Every year hunters harvest more than 20 million, but the Mourning Dove remains one of our most abundant birds with a U.S. population estimated at 350 million.
Photographed at Bob Rushing Park in the Katy Prairie
An emphatic, whistled bob-white ringing from a grassy field or piney woods has long been a characteristic sound of summers in the Eastern countryside. It’s quite a bit harder to spot a Northern Bobwhite, as the bird’s elegantly dappled plumage offers excellent camouflage. They forage in groups, scurrying between cover or bursting into flight if alarmed. Bobwhites have been in sharp decline throughout the past half-century, likely owing to habitat loss and changes in agriculture, and they are an increasingly high priority for conservation.
Because of its history as a game bird, the Northern Bobwhite is one of the most intensively studied bird species in the world. Scientists have researched the impacts of various human activities, from pesticide application to prescribed burning, on both wild and captive bobwhites.
Northern Bobwhites are divided into 22 subspecies, some of which were formerly considered to be separate species—such as the Masked Bobwhite, the Rufous-bellied Bobwhite, and the Black-headed Bobwhite. Although the females mostly look alike, the males vary dramatically from one subspecies to the next.
Northern Bobwhites were thought to be monogamous until researchers began radio-tracking individuals to follow their activities. It turns out that both male and female bobwhites can have multiple mates in one season.
The bobwhite genus is represented by more than 700 known fossils, dug up in sites ranging from Florida to Arizona to the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Some of these fossils are at least 2.5 million years old.
Why did the Prairie Chicken cross the road? ....to get away from the photographer! If you offered me a $1000 to take you to the Refuge so you could take photo of an Attwater's Prairie Chicken and you would only pay if you got the photo....I probably would not collect it.
These are few and far between and an endangered species.
I had been to Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge for years before I ever saw one. This one of two were in the road last November and I happened to be in the right place at the right time.
Plump, chickenlike bird found in grasslands. Body and wings entirely barred brown with paler buffy throat. In spring, males gather at display site and dance to attract females: look for them hunched over with earlike feathers protruding from the head and yellowish-orange skin exposed on the neck. Inconspicuous and difficult to find away from display sites. Separate from Lesser Prairie-Chicken by range; averages slightly darker and larger than Lesser. Darker than Sharp-tailed Grouse with more heavily barred sides and belly; rounded tail.
Few performances in the bird world are more memorable than the dawn display of Greater Prairie-Chickens at their booming ground, or lek—the traditional spot where males dance, call, and try to impress females with their vigor. When displaying, the males erect earlike plumes on the head and blow up bright orange air sacs on the neck, transforming themselves from brownish chickenlike birds into brightly colored performers, all the while drumming with their feet and producing whooping and cackling calls.
Some booming grounds or leks have been used for more than a century and are considered “ancestral,” whereas others, more recently established, are called “satellite” areas. When prairie-chicken populations are low, most males assemble at ancestral areas, but during periods of higher populations the satellite areas may contain many males (especially younger ones).
Males’ territories within the booming ground appear to be oriented according to marks in the terrain such as depressions, drainages, fences, cow droppings, and wheel tracks. Modifying these features can result in males modifying the shapes of their territories.
The extinct Heath Hen was a subspecies (cupido) of Greater Prairie-Chicken that inhabited the Eastern Seaboard from Maryland to Massachusetts in the colonial era. Excessive hunting of this bird led to restrictions as early as 1791, but even so declines continued. The last Heath Hen died on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, in 1932.