Monday, February 07, 2011

Pale Male and Pale Beauty Plus Doorstep Dove, Friend, and Mourning Doves in General

Pale Beauty, courtesy of

Pale Male and Pale Beauty are still an item and doing all the things that Red-tailed Hawk pairs should be doing this time of year-sky dancing, sitting companionably together, and keeping an eye on where the other is. Any day now copulation may start.

8:16am, January 18, 2011
Doorstep Dove and Friend on the left, and likely one of their yearlings on the right.

Though I didn't get a photograph of them, as the sighting was brief, I did see Doorstep Dove and Friend whip from the feeding area up to their particular spots in the north Maple tree. Both looked in fine fettle which was lovely.

Another five inches of snow fell today and even after it stopped all the birds seemed very wary in the feeding area for most of the day. I suspect a Cooper's Hawk is still out there somewhere.

Earlier in the week when Doorstep didn't look too well, the question arose in my mind as to what the life expectancy is for a Mourning Dove in the wild.

The average as usual with most species is rather depressing as so many juvenile birds don't make it. In Mourning Doves it is 1.5 years in areas where they cannot be hunted and of course lower in areas where there is hunting.

As I've been watching Doorstep and Friend since 2005, they've beaten the odds admirably. The oldest wild Mourning Dove on record is 19 years plus, and in captivity one lived to over 30 years.

4:16pm, January 18, 2011
On the 18th I looked out and the feeding area was awash with Mourning Doves, 28 of them.

Ordinarily doves who are going to migrate south usually do so in September and November. I presume these had been overwintering further north and either the snow drove them down or their usually sustaining bird feeder had fallen down on the job or both and they were now heading south.

The flock stayed for several days and when they left the third bird on the bath, likely went with them. Look at the photo. It was a mixed flock of males and females, so the yearling could well find a mate during the trip.

According to the literature, in "normal" migration patterns, Doves supposedly travel in three groups, first the juveniles leave, then the females, and then males. And over-wintering doves are able to do so due to bird feeders. Or I assume some other abundant food supply that is not buried by snow. Doves much prefer to eat at ground level but do not scratch for food which rather puts them at a disadvantage in snow. Perhaps the reason that bird feeders are a big ticket item for over wintering pairs.

For instance today I looked out and saw just the head of a male Junco in the snow. He'd scratched, the Junco technique is a rapid reverse scrape with both feet, a hole several inches deep which put him on a level with the strewn seed of the night before.

Doves just don't do it.

Personally I find the information that male and female Doves supposedly travel separately very odd. Mourning Doves are monogamous. Doorstep and Friend are pretty much joined at the hip. And during those times when they have disappeared during winter, they left and returned together. How would they find each other reliably if they migrated separately?


Donna Browne

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