Investigating the effects of hunting on the survival of British pigeons and doves by analysis of ringing recoveries.
Recent changes in British hunting legislation have protected the stock dove Columba oenas since 1 October 1982, and removed protection from the collared dove Streptopelia decaocto after 1 April 1977; the wood pigeon Columba palumbus has remained legal quarry throughout. Ringing recoveries offer a means of comparing annual survival rates before and after the change in legislation. Care is needed in the construction of the recovery matrices to remove inhomogeneities in the data and ensure that each 'year' runs from the day of legislative change. Annual survival rates were estimated by maximum likelihood using multinomial models conditioned on the recoveries; there was no evidence of age- or time-related variation in reporting rates. The annual survival rate of the stock dove was constant, at 54 ± 3%. For both the collared dove and the wood pigeon, estimates of survival rates in the first year after ringing were not consistent between birds ringed as young and those ringed as adults, but nevertheless averaged less before 1977 than after 1977; annual survival rates of birds that survived the first year after ringing did not differ between time periods, and were 64 ± 2% for the collared dove and 61 ± 2% for the wood pigeon. The proportion of recoveries reported shot or trapped was only 14% for the collared dove, compared with 79% for the wood pigeon, and remained constant before and after 1977 for both species; in the case of the stock dove, the proportion reported shot or trapped before and after 1982 fell from 70% to 34%. The change in quarry status had no effect on annual survivorship or population size of either the stock dove or the collared dove, while the wood pigeon has increased regularly in abundance despite heavy shooting.