About the Study Guide

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More than half of the hundreds of bird species nesting in the United States migrate among countries, and the majority of these are neotropical migratory birds. These migratory birds breed in the United States and Canada. Then they migrate south to Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean for the winter to find food.

Migratory game birds include cranes, doves, ducks, geese, pigeons, snipes, rails, and others. Migrating birds tend to travel at night and spend the day resting and hunting for food.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service establishes hunting seasons to regulate the harvesting of migratory game birds. Federal permits (and usually state permits) are required to hunt them. Some migratory birds, such as plovers, are not game birds and are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

Mourning dove

Mourning Dove

Light grayish-brown; lighter below; wings are darker; tail has tipped outer feathers.

Habitat and Habits: Lives in dry uplands, grain fields, thickets of shrubs or trees, shrublands, and deserts. Unmated male makes a “ooahoo-oo-oo-oo” sound. Breeding male and female make a short “ooahoo” call. Nests in trees; two white eggs.

  • State Hunting License required
  • Harvest Information Program Migratory Bird Permit required
American Woodcock

American Woodcock

Brownish with lighter buff breast; large, lighter-colored head; short neck; large dark eyes. Very long, straight bill.

Habitat and Habits: Lives in woods and thickets near open areas. Makes a “peeent” sound. Nests in depressions in ground; four buff-colored eggs with brown markings.

  • State Hunting License required
  • Harvest Information Program Migratory Bird Permit required
Virginia Rail

Virginia Rail

Rust-colored with darker crown and back; whitish throat; short tail with white underside; round chestnut-colored wings. Long, reddish bill curved slightly downward. Most often walks; flies with brown or orange legs dangling.

Habitat and Habits: Lives in freshwater marshes, winters in saltwater marshes. Weaves dry grasses into vegetation for nests; 4–13 buff-colored eggs with brown markings.

  • State Hunting License required
  • Harvest Information Program Migratory Bird Permit required