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Mourning Doves Nesting in Fairyland

by Susan Hembree
(Pleasant Gap, Pennsylvania)

Female dove waits patiently for her mate to return with nesting materials.

Female dove waits patiently for her mate to return with nesting materials.

Female dove waits patiently for her mate to return with nesting materials. The male and female dove building a nest together. A built mourning dove's nest.

I have a plant shelf unit on my back porch, in which I have placed my geode collection (I'm an Earth Science teacher), fairy figures, and a Dept 56 fairytale house (got at a garage sale for cheap).


One day, I noticed that all the fairies had been thrown off the shelf onto the ground and off the porch. A bunch of branches were thrown amongst the geodes.

I thought my husband was playing a trick and so I tossed all the branches off the geodes and onto the ground. Then I asked my husband if he was playing a joke on me with my fairyland. He said he had not idea what I was talking about.

The next morning, my husband woke me up and said, "I know who is throwing your fairy stuff off the shelf!" I said, "Who?" And he said he noticed a couple of mourning doves on the shelf. I got up and took a look and sure enough, the doves were there.

They had already replaced the branches I had thrown away and you could start to see the formation of a nest. I was delighted, as I am a photographer and this looked like a great photo opportunity.

So, though my husband and I knew we would probably have to be careful about using the porch, we decided it would be fun to watch the doves nest on the shelf.

For the next few days, after the doves got started, we noticed that the male would go out and leave the female alone. He would come back periodically with a large twig, give the twig to the female, who would carefully search and then place the twig within the nest.

He often would stand on the female's back to do this. Later, when both doves were gone, I would go up and take a look at the nest. I saw that not all of the material ended up as part of the nest, but on the ground, and I threw this material off the porch.

When they were building the nest, the male often would fly off, for longer and longer periods. During his away times, the female would often get up and then sit down again, cozying into the nest to shape it.

In the first few days, the nest look like it was made up of stiff branches of pine and other local wood materials; the bottom was very flimsy. I couldn't see it holding any eggs at that point.

The next days, though, saw the addition of softer materials, filling in the nest and making it more cushioned. Some of the softer material had tiny white dried flowers, which made the nest look very lovely.

By day 4, I could see that the bottom had a fairly well developed layer and I was thinking it was close to laying time.

During the first few days of the building time, the doves only worked during the morning and up to mid-afternoon hours. Then, we wouldn't see them again until the next morning.

I thought maybe I had scared them off on the first day, as I got about a foot away to take a photo when the female flew off and looked pretty frightened.

We didn't see either bird for the rest of that day and so, we thought, they had abandoned the nest. However, the next morning, they were back and continued to build the next.

I tried not to bother them as much at this point. At about Day 5, I noticed that the dove didn't seen to move off the nest anymore. The dove was very still and occasionally would get up and move around and then re-sit into a new position.

I put some food out on the porch table in case they would like some easier food source. The dove just watched me, but didn't move. I guessed that the female had finally laid eggs and wondered if the dove moved at all.

So, I did some online research and found out that the couple will take shifts, though you might not see them switching out. However, I decided at the end of this evening to shoot a few more photos.

I was out for just a few minutes when all of a sudden I heard a sharp coo from behind and the other dove swooped in and both doves flew out of the porch onto the shed roof, which is next to the porch. So, I went inside, upstairs and watched out the bathroom window.

I noticed two white eggs in the nest from my position above. Slowly, I saw one of the doves finally came back to the nest. It just stood on the nest for several minutes before finally sitting back into a brooding position.

I am thinking we have another few weeks before we will see the little ones. I'm excited and can't wait to see what they look like!

Please note that I am a semi-professional photographer and I hope you will enjoy viewing my dove photos here. If you would like to see more, please visit my website at http://www.smhembreephotography.com/-/smhembreephotography/default.asp

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Aug 27, 2017
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What happened to this nest?
by: Anonymous

I posted this a year ago or so. The above story was about the first nest this couple built. Only one of the eggs hatched and the little one did indeed survive. It was fun watching the parents direct the young bird off on his own.

After this, the couple returned to the nest and this time two hatchlings came about. However, just a week or so before they were to fledge, some predator got the female on the nest. There were feathers everywhere on the back porch and no sign of her. The male returned and seemed to search for her with no avail.

He did return periodically to the hatchlings, but only for a few hours at a time. One hatchling did fledge and returned with the father to the nest and then stayed. It seemed as though the other hatchling was just not ready or was weaker.

The sibling that did fledge remained when the father left again. Unfortunately, the two young birds disappeared. I am assuming from a predator due to the father returning to the nest to find it empty. He actually stood on the nest for a few hours as if stunned.

He then dropped to the ground and it appeared as if he was searching through the grass. This lasted about an hour or more. Finally, he flew up onto the rooftop of the neighbors playgym set. He sat there for another 10 minutes and then was gone.

I left the nest there throughout last winter and in the Spring, I saw a set of birds come to the nest. Two were male and one female. It was as if they were trying to woo the female and the one was showing her the nest.

The female did not seem a bit interested. They did not remain with the nest. A few weeks after this, a female came and laid one egg on the nest and then left it. It was like the birds knew this had been a doomed nest.

The nest has not been used since.

Apr 30, 2017
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Wow
by: Anonymous

Hilarious that the doves "removed the fairies" haha had to eliminate possible predators? Thanks for sharing.

Mar 31, 2017
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Love the fairy house nesting
by: Anonymous

Loved your story! We just watched a pair of doves making a nest is a cypress tree near our window. Fascinating! Now we have a dove sitting on the nest most of the time. Hope we get to see babies soon, takes about 12-14 days.

Jul 07, 2016
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feeding doves
by: Gene

Food too close to nest sites can attract predators.If doves are in the front, you can place food and water in the back. They'll find it.

Gene,
wild-bird-watching.com

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