CHICAGO — It might seem super romantic to release doves into the air when you get hitched, but you're actually killing them, according to a group that helps the migratory bird population in Chicago.
Annette Prince, director of Chicago Bird Collision Monitors, said the organization receives hundreds of calls each year from people who have found the banded, decorative doves on the streets and in alleys and backyards of Chicago.
A white dove, found with its tail feathers ripped and "emaciatingly thin," Prince said, was recovered on Aug. 31. It survived, but dozens of other wedding doves — which are sometimes also used at funerals — have been found dead in the city, many times after crashing into buildings, Prince said. They also fall prey to peregrine falcons and other predators, or simply starve to death because they're not used to a wild, urban environment, Prince said.
A white decorative dove, found with its tail feathers ripped and "emaciatingly thin," was recovered on Aug. 31. [Chicago Bird Collision Monitors]
"Hours and hours have to be spent answering hundreds of calls and trying to rescue these unfortunate birds," Prince said. "These are living creatures and should not be used for the decorative fun of letting them fly at ceremonies."
Doves used at weddings and other events are handled and trained by humans when the doves are just a few weeks old. After they're released, the doves usually circle the area a few times and return to their home, which can be hundreds of miles away. Like racing pigeons, doves can navigate their way home and remember visual landmarks.
But sometimes the doves get lost or are blown off course, and they're left to fend for themselves. Prince said the results of that usually are "awful."
The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center estimates 365 million to 988 million birds are killed in collisions in the United States each year. In the area Prince and her network of 100 volunteers can cover, about 5,000 birds per year are picked up.
Hundreds of wild bird species migrate through Chicago yearly, especially during the spring and late summer/early fall.
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