Effects of Seed Weathering on Food Selection by Mourning Doves

Changes in seed nutrient content during field weathering may have important effects on food selection by mourning doves (Zenaida macroura, hereafter ‘doves') and other granivorous wildlife. We documented changes in food selection by mourning doves with seed weathering, and we compared patterns of seed preference pre- and post-weathering with seed deterioration rates documented in an earlier-published study. Doves selected white proso millet over all other species among fresh seeds, but selected broadleaf signalgrass (Brachiaria platyphylla) over most others among weathered seeds. Results generally confirmed shifting food preferences of doves from cultivated to wild foods with seed weathering. These shifts in preference seem to be based on differential deterioration rates among seed types; selection among weathered seeds seems to favor those most resistant to mass loss. Deterioration-resistant wild seeds may be important in sustaining mourning dove populations during non-growing periods, and establishment or encouragement of wild seeds may increase the long-term use and benefits of dove food plantings.

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