Monday, April 23, 2012

Mourning Dove Family II

My first introduction to these birds  was late July, 2010.  My third floor
balcony became their home during the nesting period.  How privileged I was
to have the time to not only educate myself about them, but especially to observe
their routines which I documented on a daily basis.  There is much to be learned
about these mating  pairs. The similarity  between Mourning Doves and Humans
in relationships is uncanny and amazing!

I invite you to “read all about it” in a 4-part written account posted on my blog
from August 1 to August 4, 2011 titled:  From Nuisance to Miracle
                                                             Nuisance to Miracle Pt II, Part III, Part IV.
                                                             Read this 2010 narration about Rosie,
                                                             Rosie, Papa and their two young ones,
                                                             Henry and Heather.
Last summer, there was a low, almost flat nest built again (as in 2010) on the same
black wrought-iron-chair...composed of twigs and grasses.  Unfortunately, no doves
to lay eggs.  The “why” is unknown to me.

To appreciate today's writing about my current family, these basic facts
may interest you.As a member of the “dove family,” they are also called
Turtle Doves or Australian Mourning Doves or Rain Doves ~ also formerly
known as Carolina Pigeons or Carolina Turtle Doves.
The dove is one of the most abundant and widespread of North American
birds.  It is also the leading Game Bird in United States.
Its ability to sustain its population, under such pressure to exist, stems from
its prolific breeding.  In warm areas, one pair may raise up to 6 broods a year
(here in southern Canada, up to 4 a year.) Its plaintive...woo-OO-oo-oo-oo
call, gives the bird its name. 
The wings can make a whistling or whooshing sound on take-off or landing. 
A strong flier, it is capable of speeds up to 88 k/h (55 m/h). 
Notation: The only conversation(s) I heard from among my two pairs of
doves was a series of  fast….twitter, twitter, twitter, twitter, twitter, 
twitter, twitters.

                SIZE AND SHAPE: Streamlined and graceful in appearance with a
                relatively small head and long pointed tail measuring from tail tip to
                bill up to 13 inches in length. Males and females are often the same
                size and therefore, not distinguishable.

                 COLOUR PATTERN:  They are overall grayish blue or grayish brown
                 and generally muted in colour.  Some are light buffy-tan (as the doves
                 in this story); all have black spots  (speckles) on their wings and have
                 black-bordered white wing tips to the tail feathers.  They have small
                 black bills  and reddish-pink legs and feet.  The male may be larger
                 than female and slightly brighter in colour.  Males may have a bluish
                 crown and rosy-beige breast (like Papa in my first family).

                 HABITAT:  Mourning Doves may be seen nearly everywhere except
                 deep woods.  Look for them in open fields of bare ground or on overhead
                 perches e.g. telephone and hydro wires;  they are frequently seen in treed
                 neighbourhoods  of village, town or city. 
                FOOD:  Mourning Doves eat almost exclusively seeds.  The young are fed
                crop milk by both parents for the first 3 or 4 days which is regurgitated and
                fed with a “pumping motion” by both parent and babe (which become more
                physically thrusting as the hatchlings grow).  After this, the parents begin to
                add more seeds to the regurgitated food until the young leave the nest.

                LIFESTYLE:  The species is generally monogamous with 2 squals (young)
                per brood.  Both parents, once mated, build the nest together, incubate the
                two sizeable white eggs by shift-changes  (day and night) for about 14 or
                15 days, and together tend to and care for their young.  These fledglings
                grow and mature quickly and are able to fly from the nest in about 15
                days.  The adults usually live to approximately 1 ½ years in the wild;
                yet one Mourning Dove reportedly lived to 19.3 years.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

MARCH 16 (Friday 11:10 am)  I hear a familiar series of Twitters.
From my balcony door, I glance to the far black wrought-iron-chair and
see a sleek mourning dove on the “beginning-of-a-straw-and-twig nest.
While peering through my 2-inch open door…so as to not frighten the visitor
…a “fatty dove” flew to the far end balcony railing with a long twig
cross-wise in her beak. The lengthy twig is deposited on the nest.
The sleek slim dove then flew away…and “fatty” flew to the barrier wall
at my end of the balcony.
Indeed!  A most pleasant surprise!!!

(11:30 am)  “Fatty” is perched on the telephone wire across from my
balcony. Imagine…a Dove Family again!!!  I must name her “Bella”
(Isabel)…since her size indicates a“pregnant mama”!
(11:50 am)  One dove on the nest.  Left the door ajar ~ when it closed
with a click, she flew!
(12:50 pm)  Both doves are face-to-face on the nest.  “Carlo” is slender
and the younger of this mating pair.  This time, I leave the door ajar with
a couple chair cushions…so I can view them “silently”.  As I observe,
one flies away…then the other.(2:40 pm)  Neither has returned.

MARCH 17 (Saturday 10 am…and My Birthday)  I  hear Twitters 
outside ~ the birds are not seen ~ yet evident,  more nesting material
has been placed. 
(12 noon)  A mourning dove is on the nest…unable to determine which one.
(1:45 pm)  Dove is gone … take photo of the nest!  I’m away for the
afternoon from 4:30 until 9 pm for a Birthday Dinner with my family.

MARCH 18 (Sunday 8:35 am)  Unlocked my balcony door QUIETLY!
 A mourning dove on the nest as another one arrived…”shift change”…
the nest bird flew away…soaring over the hydro wires.
 I EXPECT there must be EGGS!  As I peeked through the door
10 minutes later, she (?) flew away and perched on a high wire.  '
(Did she see me?...I doubt it!)
But, alas…no eggs yet! In a moment, he joined her as together,
on the high wire, they preened their feathers for about ten minutes
…side by side. Isn’t that romantic???

Activity on the Bike Path:  A man walking his dog notes that someone
 has stupidly removed the garbage can insert and DUMPED its contents
on the path.  He, holding his leash in one hand, picks it all up…piece
 by piece…placing it in the garbage can…and returns it to the container
by one of the walk entry benches.  What a good citizen!
Then closes the lid with a BANG!  My birds seem a little skittish!
Eventually, one returns to the nest. 
(9:35 am)  Both on the nest and chair seat; one flies to the hydro wire. 
A few minutes later, other bird soared into the sky…leaving partner
on the wire. (10:10 am)  Both in attendance…one on nest, other
on railing behind the chair. The doves twitter their series of
Twitters as they “come and go” 
At 10:30, no doves in sight. (12 noon), Bella is on the nest.
(12:05 pm)  She twitters her leave…perching on wires for overall view.
(12:30 pm)  Both on nest.  Check at 1:40 pm and 5:15 pm…no one.

MARCH 19 (Monday 8:45 am)  I unlock the door as quietly as possible
…yet both flew away with twtters. (just the slight squeaking of the door)!
I am confident this is not the returning pair of two years ago.
There are many old maple leaves on the balcony floor below and near the
table…did the wind blow them there?  As I swept them away…surprise!!!
A black squirrel is in my white elephant pot below the table…ideally, he
believes, for the making of his nest!!! With great determination and great
reluctance, he hustles away.  Then I cover the container…did not want him
around to disturb my Mourning Dove Family!
(10:35  am)  Bella on the nest and at 10: 55 am, Carlo joins her for a
few minutes,  then they both exit for the high wire preening session.

MARCH 20 (Wednesday 8:30 am)  Bella present and at 9 am,
flew away into the trees.(11 am)  Both doves in attendance for
15 minutes…then off flew one. (7:30 pm)  Carlo arrives for his shift….
this is the First Overnight... EGGS, there must be!

MARCH 21 (Thursday 8:30 am)  Bella here all day.
(5:30 pm)  I venture SLOWLY out to my end of the balcony..
knowledgeable that with eggs, neither he or she will leave the nest!
Carlo, watches me with beady eyes before flying away at 5:55 pm.
A few minutes later, Bella arrives. I note that she has more black spots
on her wings than he.  Between the departure and arrival of Bella…
I photographed both beautiful white eggs! They seem a bit larger than
the ones of two years ago.  Bella, I am confident will have a chat with
Carlo for leaving the nest  “on his shift”!  Like the “Mother” I am,
calculated these eggs should hatch Easter weekend (14 to 16 days)…
how appropriate! 

MARCH 22 (Friday )  Bella on their nest…incubating the eggs.  I went
to my chair (furthest from the nest to crochet.  Carlo there late afternoon
…he was OK while I was there, but when I left (too cool to be outside
 longer), he flew away…abandoning the nest… leaving the EGGS!
One hour later, a parent returned.  Bella will admonish him for
 “leaving the nest unattended”…like a driverleaving the scene of an
accident!  He’s Young…He Will Learn!

MARCH 24 (Saturday Bella on nest all day. Twitters at 5:25
announcing the shift. Carlo has arrived for his all-night incubation job!
With my previous pair a couple years ago, Rosie was the “night shift”
 and Papa took the day-shift.

MARCH 25 (Sunday)  Beautifully sunny  for Around the Bay Road Race
today…the best weather-day ever for this annual event.
All peaceful at the Mourning Dove residence. Sat on the balcony for
1 ½ hours with scarf I’m knitting to match giraffe sweater for Jessica’s
May birthday.

MARCH 26 (Monday 8:30 am)  Too chilly to be outside.
MARCH 27 (Tuesday) Too chilly..left patio door closed.
MARCH  28 (Wednesday) Milder, but windier and sunny.
MARCH  29 (Thursday)  Sunny and air very chilly.
APRIL 1 (Sunday)  Drizzling all day…heard the Twitters for
 shift changes.
APRIL 2 (Monday 5 pm)  Took novel to balcony observation time.
Bella “on duty”. (5: 45 pm)  Carlo flew to the rear railing ~ watched me
 for a few minutes then flew away.  I note that this pair does not
wait on the tel. or hydro wires at shift-time as did Rosie and Papa
of 2 years ago. 
(6:00 pm)  Carlo returns and Bella leaves.  I stand to come inside  ~
Carlo again flees! I photo the eggs again…and 5 minutes later he
returns. I wait quietly for him to settle on his nest ~ with my
 movement, he again flees!  He’d Better Arrive Back Soon!

APRIL 3 (Tuesday 2 pm)  Loud machinery noises along the bike path…
Bella is alert...yet remains on the nest..

APRIL 4 (Wednesday 9:30 am)  Bella flew to the nest and stood
on the chair for a couple minutes while Carlo remained on the eggs..
Unusual…I wonder, “Is this the birth date ??? (14 days since
 the eggs were laid)”  Rosie’s hatched on days 14 and 15.

April 6 (Good Friday 1 pm)  I hear Twitters and check the
nesting chair. A dove flies off the nest, soaring over the balcony..
From my doorway I see No Eggs! Walking towards the chair ~
2 small babies plus ½ egg shell!!!  I retrieve my camera to photo
the little ones…so tiny…squirming a bit…such magic, such wonder,
such beauty in these tiny lives…on this sunny bright,
yet chilly-air-day!!!  I’m totally enthralled…and feel So Lucky
to experience this scene before me.  IMAGINE !
Born on Good Friday…I name the babies Frieda and Felix
Checked at 3 pm…Bella quiet with her babes beneath her.
(5:00 pm)  I slowly approach my near table chair with a novel,
Glory Seekers, and camera. (5:15 pm)  I take a flash photo of her
with her hatchlings barely visible below her breast.
(5:40 pm)  Shift change by Twitters.

APRIL 7 (Saturday)  Bella  proudly keeping her babes warm…
haven’t noticed any feeding. (10:30 am)  Hear the Twitter series.
Both Carlo and Bella on the nesting chair. I see the babies squirming
below her breast.  I take a photo!  They stay!
(4:00 pm)  Warm sunny afternoon.  I now go out and in freely, sitting
at the table…about six feet from them…while Bella on the nest.
I tell her how beautiful she is and chat coo-ingly to her, asking about
Felix and Frieda.  I comment on her feathers which she keeps
well-spread to protect her babes
(6:00 pm)  began a scenario: Carlo fluttered to the nest railing, \
then immediately escaped to the hydro wire... I’m at the table??? 
BELLA WAITS! (6:30 pm)  Carlo flew to the next pole and wire,
returns to the near wire at 6:35 pm. (6:40 pm)  He again disappeared.
SHE WONDERS! (7:00 pm)  Again, he’s on the hydro line!
BELLA  VERY ANXIOUS…sits tall in the nest and turns her head
to see him.  Reading the scene.. moved from the table
to the chair near my door. HE DOESN'T COME TO REPLACE HER!!!
(7:10 pm)  Bella is disgusted…finally flees the scene while he remains
perched on wire. I photo Felix and Frieda…who have grown
So Much in these 2 days!  UNBELIEVABLE to note their small wings
are beginning to develop! I return inside and Carlo takes over…
frightened of me…I guess!

APRIL 8 (Sunday 10:30 am)  Hearing the series of Twitters  again,
I see both on the nest Chair with the hatchlings visible.  I took a photo
 ~ one parent flew away…probably due to the flash.  I check
 mid-afternoon (had lost one of my cushion since the no-wind-morning.
Have not yet seen the wee ones being fed.

APRIL 9 (Monday)  Extreme winds; their feathers are totally ruffled
 by the wind gusts.

APRIL 10 (Tuesday 7:00 am)  Last morning here with my Dove Family
for a few days…leaving for a visit to Connecticut  I muse...that in two
weeks these fledglings could be flying.(Born on April 6th Good Friday,
therefore April 20th  might be their Flight Day).
I plan to attend this important event.

(Bella and Carlo’s Family…to be continued)

Merle Baird-Kerr … written April 23, 2012
Comments welcome … scroll down (may enter as “anonymous”)
or e-mail …


  1. Merle, You were and are such a great teacher.
    And now your teaching us about Nature... and God has blessed you with your witnessing it right in your own backyard... Thanks Merle...Very Lovely story and can't wait to read the next installment.

  2. I documented this experience, not only for
    my own records, but to share with others.
    What better venue than this blog? My knowledge and intelligence seem so limited and somewhat belittled when I observe what animals and birds can achieve. Thank you for your ever sincere words, Sherrie.