Archives for posts with tag: mourning doves

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.

(At) Loose Ends


So, the vacation cold from hell lingers on. I’ve turned the corner though, and whilst I’m not yet up to gardening, I am trying to putter about, being productive. I’m back to working and sneezing and coughing—those being my current forms of aerobic activity. This whole thing has landed me in a cranky mood—which I’m taking out on my number one enemy, those damn mourning doves.

This place is bird central. If I look out the window (the same view you see above in the blog header) I’m likely, in that moment, to see at least five kinds of birds. (No, I don’t include chickens in that mix—you can’t see them from here, anyway.) As often as not, at least one of the birds I usually see will be a mourning dove—those cloying, cooing agents of rural decay. Elmer loves them. I have never been a mourning dove fancier. Having spent thirty years in the city, I know a pigeon when I see one—and these, for all intents and purposes, are pigeons. If you didn’t recognize them visually, that telltale coo ought to be enough to correctly place these country cousins in their correct category—rats with wings.

And it’s not just the result of this damned cold, I am a curmudgeon when it comes to mourning doves. My friends are appalled. Here I am, Ms. Farm Fresh and Natural and yet, I hold a grim grudge against this hapless species.  They see it as out of character. And that’s the issue—they “see” it. I am a largely auditory person. Some sounds really get to me. There’s a particular tonal thing with the coo of a mourning dove that gets under my skin. It’s one of those fingernails-on-a-chalkboard things, the call of mourning doves actually grates on me. Sometimes I play music to escape that damning pitch.

And they never shut up. Before I installed the wood stove they used to sit on the top of my chimney and coo down at me, the whole house reverberating with their incessant coo. Even now, when they can no longer use the house as their sound chamber, all day I hear the constant coo of the mourning doves. There are at least four breeding pairs within a stone’s throw of my house. They are so damn chatty. Other people don’t hear it, until I point it out. And then they raise their eyebrows at my anti-dove vitriol. They think I’m nuts.

Really, I don’t mind the hoots and screeches of the owls, the high-pitched squeak of our occasional bat. The chickadees are just fine with me. I’m quite impressed with the goings on of the house finches and those little yellow guys I haven’t yet identified. I love to watch the constant swooping of the swallows (though I won’t allow them to build their mud nests under our eaves.) And you know how I feel about egrets. So I’m not just a general, bird hater. It’s just those damn doves. Perhaps they bother me just a little more when I’m under the weather.

On a lighter note… We have a farm rule about nesting birds. You can dissuade them all you like, but if they get to the point of a nest with eggs, they get to stay, unmolested, until the chicks are grown. Do you begin to understand now just how much of a softie Elmer is?

I’d hoped that our fledgling raptor would grow up to be a mourning dove devourer. Unfortunately, he’d completely flown the coop by the time we returned from our recent trip, so he will not live out my dove-eradication fantasy. We never even figured out who he was. He kept grooming and preening and pulling out all his baby-fuzz feathers. He was literally changing by the day. I’ve read stories and scientific explanations of the phenomena of “going grey overnight” because of some traumatic experience. It appears that it does occur, not because the hair changes color, but because the stress of the event causes hair loss—and that shedding occurs first in the older hair shafts—so the more-recent grey hair survives the trauma. Such is the case of the fledgling raptor. The baby-fuzz feathers conceal the bird-to-be, who, in his fledging phase, preens his way to a whole new self. Kind of like teenagers, if you know what I mean. Anyway…

The doves do drive me crazy and, like I said, it’s not about some dark, avian animosity. I guess I’ll just turn up the music until I’m feeling better.

Oh, while I’m addressing loose ends, and if you’re wondering, the peach tree’s forced-defoliation has been a complete success! While still a bit sparse, it has leafed out anew with only about 5% of the leaves still affected with peach curl. Like the garden, I’ll get to those last curled leaves when this damned cold abates.