Mourning Doves Have a Lot to Be Sorry About

They don't call them mourning doves for nothing. The migratory birds that lose 40 million of their ranks each year to the hunter’s bullet may be in for further losses if Congress can convince the Bush administration to expand the hunting season another week.

Pressed into action by hunters in 35 states, the House passed a resolution Wednesday urging President Bush to open hunting season on mourning doves a week earlier than its current Sept. 1 date, arguing that the birds have already flown south by time hunters can take aim.

“All hunters should have an equitable chance to harvest this tasty but apparently thin-skinned little bird,” said Rep. James Hansen, R-Utah. “This is a commonsense solution to a problem that has frustrated northern hunters for years.”

The resolution directs the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to renegotiate the 1916 Migratory Bird Treaty with Canada, Mexico, Japan and Russia for the extra week.

That is no small feat, according to Bob Blohm, head of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service division for migratory birds.

Though the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service takes no position on expanding the resolution, Blohm said the agency needs to study the impact of a longer hunting season on the bird population.

Blohm said 400 million mourning doves — named for their mourning cooing during the spring and summer seasons — live in the United States today, but their numbers have rapidly declined since the 1960s.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.