Bird Mysteries

A.V. Walters

Back in May I mentioned a new bird, a raptor that we couldn’t identify. In fact, we suspected a family of them, but couldn’t be sure because we never clearly saw two of them at the same time. He (or she)disappeared for a while but then he/she/they reappeared, in force, in these past few weeks. They had us baffled. Our bird guide, (granted, a very old and confusing tome) didn’t seem to cover this particular bird. He’s clearly a raptor, a hunting bird, but not colored like anything we’d seen before.

Our mystery was finally solved. I met some birders, by chance, during a business meeting. By the end of the meeting I felt comfortable enough to ask if I could send them a photo of our mystery guest—and then, I did just that. The answer came back in minutes (don’t you just love the internet) our bird is (drum roll, please) a white-tailed kite. In fact that’s birds plural, because we’ve discovered we have a bunch of them. (The bird guide we have at home, doesn’t even have a picture of them!)

No sooner did we get the name, than a whole family of them soared over us—four or five in a loose formation. And then a day or so later we spotted another one, a juvenile. (Yup, with a name and the internet, we’re able to confirm them from sight and even know what the babies look like. Forget about your privacy now.) In the five years I’ve lived here, I’ve never seen one of these birds and suddenly we are white-tailed-kite-central! We have enjoyed their company, even though they aren’t going to solve my other bird problem, those troublesome noisy mourning doves. Don’t get me wrong, the kites are entirely beneficial—eating large insects, mice and voles and, we hope, maybe gophers. BUT, they don’t do anything to scare off the darned doves. We’ll have to be content with the fact that they’re lovely to watch and a welcome addition to our farm’s roster.

But wait—all is not lost! There is a new development on the mourning dove front. You may recall that the tone of a mourning dove’s coo drives me crazy. I find it unnerving. Apparently, that’s not uncommon—I regularly get hits from internet searches looking for a solution to those noisy mourning doves. Well, we’ve found a possible solution. It’s funny because the fix was here all along. When I first moved here there was an abandoned, fake owl (with big, plastic eyes) under the balcony. I didn’t think much of it and it’s kicked around from place to place for five years now. Last week Rick came upon it and, with nothing to lose, mounted it on the back railing.

Within a day, Silence. It worked. The mourning doves relocated out of our back yard. (So did the swallows, but it’s worth it.) The doves are still active elsewhere on the farm but they stay clear of the backyard and the top of the house. It’s blissful. Well, it was ‘til today, when a pair decided to check out the front yard—in plain sight of my office. But we have a solution. We’ll just move the faux owl around to keep the fidgety little critters on their toes, and out of earshot. So, for all of you out there yearning for some mourning dove peace, it’s only been about a week but it’s still working.

We do have real owls on the farm, some barn owls and some screech owls. They are a pleasure to watch on an early evening stroll, but they don’t do anything for the doves, because the doves are daytime birds. So, fake owls it is.

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