Sand (Ground) Doves are
Well-Adapted to the Open, Sandy Longleaf Pine Forest Floor Habitat
(bolded words in text indicate key words
Sand doves, a smaller cousin of the more common mourning dove and
pigeon, live comfortably in the open sandy longleaf forest ecosystem.
They feed on the seeds of grasses and other plants, like the butterfly
pea. Butterfly peas are related to the beans and peas you eat for
supper. However, unlike the peas on your dinner plate, these butterfly
peas are poisonous and should not be put in your mouth.
The open nature of the fire-maintained longleaf forest is ideal
for many song and gamebirds. Sand doves,
like other members of the dove family have weak feet and are poor
scratchers for food in heavy litter or vegetation. Fire maintains
shallow litter layers and open sandy stretches giving birds easy
access to the myriad of native grasses and plant seed.
The butterfly pea on the right side of the drawing is one of the
legumes of the longleaf ecosystem. It flourishes in the sunlight
filtering through the open pine canopies and its seeds fall onto
mineral soil, where they are stimulated to germinate by the frequent
fires that pass through periodically. Nitrogen is essential to all
life. The sandy soils longleaf
pine often grows in can be low in nitrogen due to its ready solubility
(ability to dissolve in water) and the fact that rainwater percolates
through the soils very quickly. Also, a great deal of nitrogen can
be released from the soil into the atmosphere when organic material
is burned up in fires (called volatilization).
Through a mutualistic relationship
with microscopic bacteria called Rhizobium,
butterfly peas (like other legumes) can take nitrogen gas from the
air and convert it to a form which can be transferred to the soil
and used by other plants and animals. This process is called nitrogen
fixation. The relationship between legumes and the tiny
nitrogen-fixing bacteria found on their root hairs is symbiotic;
meaning both sides prosper from the relationship.
The dwarf live oak is well adapted both to the droughty infertile
soils and to the low intensity fires that sweep through the forest
floor. Although fires generally kill the above-ground portion of
the tree, nutrient reserves in the roots
allow the trees to resprout weeks after the fire passes over (called
root-sprouting). Though small
in stature, dwarf live oaks
can produce abundant acorns which are valuable foods (called
hard-mast) for a variety of
wildlife, including grey and fox squirrels, deer, and wild turkeys.
Also, blueberries, huckleberries, and other (soft-mast)
berries are also found in abundance in this forest and provide a
valuable food source for various critters (including man).
Key Words and Concepts (click
on for glossary definition): hard-mast,