The Mourning Dove’s Coo
by Pallavi Deshpande
(San Mateo, CA)
The Mourning Dove has been our companion for quite some time now. We have changed home thrice and somehow every home we lived in had a Mourning Dove around it as if it has been following us.
So I am used to waking up at the coo of Mourning Dove with some occasional cooing throughout the day.
And then one fine day as I am going about my business as usual, I see a pair of Mourning Doves surveying our balcony. There are some potted plants in the balcony.
The visits and the surveying takes place almost every day till I see the female sitting in the pot while the male is getting twigs for her.
He keeps coming back every five minutes with a twig in his beak. After building a good sized nest in no time both of them fly away.
The next day evening when I return home I once again see the female sitting in the pot, that is because there are two eggs laid in the nest. Both the parents now are on a 12 hour shift to incubate the eggs. It is difficult to imagine how they track the start time and end time of their shift.
Also I cannot stop watering the plant, if the plant dies and dries up, the nest will be exposed.
So each passing day I start pouring very little water on the other end of the pot just to make sure that the water doesn’t reach the eggs but at the same time keeps the plant alive.
Every morning I see the male returning to take over from the female. Not even once did they leave the eggs unattended. The female Dove who is slightly bigger than the male, takes the night shift whereas the male is on the day shift.
The shift ritual goes on for 3 weeks where both the parents efficiently do a long shift to incubate the eggs.
We too anxiously wait for the babies but refrain from going to the balcony as we want the doves to feel safe and secured about their nest and expected babies.
We do have a clear view of the pot from inside our house. One morning while I am in the kitchen I see quite a bit of movement in the pot. This is unusual as I am used to seeing both the parents sit firm and seldom move.
To my surprise I see two little baby Doves avidly rising to their mother for food. I am thrilled to see that and instantly announce the arrival of the babies to my family.
The babies are now six days old and both the parents continue their shift and feeding without a miss.
The babies look healthy with light brown fur on them, they are too young to have wings. Mourning Doves feed crop milk to their babies which is rich in protein and fat.
They are able to generate the crop milk for first 4-5 days thereafter the babies are fed seeds.
The babies are growing fast and continue to look healthy. After a few days I notice that both the babies are left unattended once in a while and that is the time when I get really worried.
So I decide to keep a watch on them as much as I can whenever they are alone. Poor little babies, they look worried and vulnerable whenever their parents are not around and that makes me uneasy too.
In fact I have even decided that come what may I will not let the babies die and I if their parents don’t return I will do whatever it takes to save them. I will adopt them and take care of them.
But every 7-8 hours I am happy to see that either mother or father arrive in the nest to feed them and spend some time with them.
It been a little over two weeks and the babies now have wings. The nest is not big enough to hold them and the parents. Also now they are left unattended for most of time.
Then one bright morning I see that one of the babies is standing on the edge of the balcony with one parent on either side.
Her parents are training her to fly. She finally glides off the balcony. Mourning Doves typically lay two eggs with a gap of twelve hour. This is precisely why one baby is somewhat younger than the other one as they are born twelve hours apart.
The other baby who is younger of the two is patiently waiting for her turn.
As I pen my thoughts both the babies have left the nest, every morning I keep looking for them from the balcony in the tree and on the ground.
I am able to spot only one on the ground. Young Mourning Doves leave their nest and spend several days on the ground hiding in a bush.
They are fed by their father during these days till they are finally able to fly and fend themselves. I hope and pray that both are alive and kicking.
Mourning Doves are known to be dedicated parents. Even if one parent gets killed the other single handedly raises the babies and cares for them till the babies are about a month old.
I have gotten very attached to these two baby Doves especially because they had to spend time alone in the nest or is it because I have recently lost my dear father and the sight of new life is comforting me from inside. But again I have always been fond of babies.
I even used to talk these baby Doves when they were alone in the nest in an attempt to comfort them.
I have spent a sleepless night when the babies were left alone all throughout the night for the first time.
I was relieved only next morning when I saw their father in the nest He returned only after sun rise. Mourning Doves train their babies to be strong and independent.
They are known to even stop feeding their babies if the babies are reluctant to glide and fly. The parents patiently wait by the nearby tree until the babies give up and decide to fly.
Its been a week since the babies have left the nest and to my surprise today I see the couple again near the pot.
Once again the male dove is collecting the twigs and female is sitting the nest straightening their nest. As I write tonight the female is incubating her eggs.
I salute their parenthood and the relentless efforts that they put in to take care for and raise their babies even though they have to struggle for their basic survival.
It’s the Circle of Life, And it moves us all
Through despair and hope, Through faith and love
This has been a very humbling experience for me. It makes me ponder that life is sweet and simple but it’s us humans who have made simple little things complex.
I am now eager;y waiting for the next set of baby Doves to enter the world….my beautiful and simple world!