Feathered Friends
Mourning Doves

When we lived in our previous house, I used to watch birds from my kitchen-sink-window, which was second level up. Utility lines ran through the pine trees at the foot of our back yard and mourning doves would line up along the wires as many as twenty at a time.

Mourning doves are supposedly named for their “mournful sound”, but to me it is a soft, sweet, cooing sound. They are softly colored, pretty, sweet looking… and, they were amusing birds to watch, seeming grumpy at times and lazy.

Their nests are collections of twigs that look as if they will fall apart any second. I read that the male brings twigs to the female and she builds the nest. The strange thing is: he stands on her back as he gives the twig to her. Seems a strange way of handing off building material - maybe that explains why the nest is shoddy, maybe she doesn’t have enough strength left to do a better job. Maybe he doesn't trust her foundation work enough to step on it fearing he would damage or destroy it and finds her a safer, steadier landing pad.

Little pigs at the feeders, they did not go to the feeder itself, rather, being ground feeders, they waited on the ground for the perching birds to knock and spill seeds to earth then they cleaned it up. I liked the efficiency of that.

Mourning doves are noted for their strong breast muscles that allow them to take flight at explosive speed when flushed in the field. Hunters harvest them and the only part of the bird that is large and meaty enough to cook and eat is the muscular breast. It is dark meat and is very good for eating if the cook knows how to prepare them covered and steamed in onion gravy. I have cooked them several times, but only if the hunter brought them to me already cleaned and unrecognizable. I suspect a whack from one of those strong wings would smart.

When the doves were strung out along the utility wires high in the air, sometimes a cross one would give its neighbor a “karate chop” with one of its wings. Sometimes the neighbor would strike back with its wing; they could get quite rough in a squabble, but usually the lifting of a wing was warning enough to move over.

I did not have a pretty birdbath so I devised some makeshift ones using metal garbage can lids. I dug out a small amount of soil so the handle would set in and enough to mate with the curve of the lid and make it stable. Then a few stones and old bricks were put in them so the smallest birds had a place to perch and would not get into water that was too deep. Birds of all kinds loved it! They drank and drank, and bathed and bathed… kept me busy cleaning it and adding fresh water.

But the doves never bathed. They drank around the edges, stood around outside the pan and sipped, even occasionally perched on the rim and drank, but they NEVER got into the water and bathed! Dirty birds!

Then one day as I watch out the window while working at the sink, a strong, heavy rain shower occurred. I couldn’t believe my eyes! One of the doves sitting on the line raised one wing high over his head for several seconds of refreshing under-wing rinse; and then lowered it and raised the other one to let the rain wash under that wing, too, same as I would raise my arm in my shower bath! Well, well, well – so doves prefer shower baths to “tub” baths.

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