The primary dove throughout Argentina is the Golden Eared dove. (Zenaida Auriculta) The South American golden dove is very similar to the mourning dove found throughout warmer climates in North America however they are not the same. The primary cosmetic differences are the “golden ear” at the top of the neck, and the mourning dove tends to have plumage slightly greyer than the eared dove.
The hugely defining difference between the mourning dove and the golden eared dove relates to breeding and migration. The biological instinct to migrate is no longer triggered in the golden eared dove. While there is no way to determine over what period of time this genetic message was altered, but it’s easy to understand why the golden eared dove has over time turned the genealogical trigger off.
In the warmer areas of Argentina due to perfect climate, soil conditions, roosting areas and farming practices the dove have made these areas their year round home. There are natural predators, which include hawks, eagles, and several types of mammals but the dove have selected roosting areas the larger animals simply can’t get to. The roosting areas typically are several hundred or even thousand acres that contain perhaps millions of Espinillo and Algarrobo trees. These trees like many in Argentina have extremely sharp thorns, some as long as 4 inches. No predators can access the dove roosts from any angle. The ground mammals would suffer grave injury from below, and the hawks and eagles are simply too big to approach from above.
Directly related to the genetic triggers of migration turned off is the abundance of food source in Argentina. Common farming practices in Argentina have farmers planting their fields in a staggered way. The farm fields are so large they cannot possibly harvest all the crops at once, hence the staggering of sowing crops allowing the farmers ample time to harvest over time. This practice coupled with the sheer abundance of farming provides a year round supply of food for the dove.
So with no natural predators, abundance of food source, perfect climate and no need to migrate, all the doves do is eat, sleep and make babies. The time normally spent migrating is now spent reproducing. Once again genetics have adapted over time related to reproduction, as our Mourning dove in the United States may breed once a year typically with 1 egg per hatch, the Golden eared dove may reproduce as many as 6 times per year with a hatch of up to 2-3 eggs that hatch in 12-14 days. With a lifespan of more than 4 years and the ability for the younger dove to begin the reproduction cycle in only 45-50 days we can begin to understand the immense population of dove in Argentina.
There is much propaganda about one area boasting about more doves than another, and some claims may be accurate, but the key to a successful dove hunt in Argentina is not about how many doves you see, rather how many doves pass your shooting area and are within shotgun range. Its important to understand that seeing millions of dove in a day makes good pictures, but doesn’t necessarily make a good dove hunt.