Friday, March 11, 2011

Mourning Doves at My Back Yard Feeders (18), by Dennis Dingemans

For the last 8 months I have been serious (from a bird's view: predictably regular) about keeping bird seed in my back yard feeder and also in a small pile in the alley itself. The rewards have been satisfying.
    Blue Jays come every day in modest numbers and smaller birds of various striping are the most common. The real triumph is the regular and numerous appearance of Mourning Doves. I've since my rural Minnesota boyhood loved the distinctive mournful long-song sound and their briefer cooing as well as their impossibly loud flapping of wings when the are frightened and suddenly flush.
     Some doves have been in the yard and the neighborhood for many of the 34 years that I've lived at 645 C Street but seldom is there more than one mating pair and some years there seemed to be just one lonely adult. The adult pairs some years were for a few weeks joined by two or three fledglings. This fall it became clear that there was going to be a big group of Mourning Doves that over-wintered instead of migrating south for the cold season. 

    And what a flock I have had! The peak number counted at one time has been 13 doves on many occasions since November. The joy of watching them does not include watching a peaceable kingdom. The Mourning Doves quarrel over feeding space and seem to spend a lot of energy driving off temporarily their fellow doves. One or two of the biggest doves will squat down in the middle of the seed pile and enjoy preventing anyone else from eating
Squirrels are the spoiler, of course, and when they come to eat the doves usually (but not always) keep a respectful distance and eat the stray seeds scattered from the mound/pile I make for them every morning around 7am. Thanks to Davis Lumber which this year has had deep discounts on the 20 pound bags of mixed songbird seeds: 3 for $10 for much of the winter was a terrific price and rewarded the birds' collective decision to trust their winter welfare to the kindness of strangers filling the feeder.
     For those who want to learn about how beloved and how common are these Doves across the USA, Wikipedia has a long entry. Other web sites note that dozens of millions are killed each year, being the number one game bird in the country. In-delicately, several web sites assert that it is a bit of an ugly bird with its tail too thin and its head too small for its body. An ill-proportioned bird it may be, but I'm delighted that a substantial flock has decided to stay in Old North this winter.
     Let me know if you have observed the doves nesting or feeding or congregating elsewhere in our Old North.
Dennis Dingemans