Doves at our front door.
One day in early April, I watered a hanging plant outside our front door. I ducked as something big and feathery whooshed past my ear and flew away.
It sounded like a fast-turning squeaky wheel. Did I disturb a nest? I got a step ladder, and we looked in the planter. Two eggs nestled on a spread of pine needles. We hurried into the house, hoping the bird would return to its nest. A few minutes later, a mourning dove was sitting in the planter, right on top of the eggs.
We had seen and heard mourning doves outside our house before. But we had never seen a nest. It was exciting to have dove neighbors. We went to the library and checked out a book to learn about doves. Over the next several weeks, we learned a lot from watching and living with them.
The adult doves took turns sitting on the nest. The larger male sat during the day, and the female sat at night. We went outside every day to talk to whichever bird was there. We tried to make them comfortable with our presence. They never responded to our voices, but they stopped flying off the nest in fear. I watered the plant on the side away from the nest, always talking softly in a reassuring tone of voice.
About three weeks after we discovered the nest, we saw a baby dove, or squab, next to its parent. It already had feathers, so we knew it was not newly hatched. Within a few days, the squab was alone in the nest. Its mother was on the ground below, cooing encouragement. A few days later, the nest was empty.
We were soon surprised when an adult dove returned to the planter. Could there be eggs in the nest again? There were. TWo more. Our relationship with our dove neighbors continued. We talked to them, took photos, and enjoyed our front row seats to watch another nesting cycle. This time, both eggs hatched. Again, we did not see the squabs until they already had feathers. In a few days, the nest was empty.
But the dove family was not quite complete. In the middle of June, the female laid two more eggs. TWo babies hatched in early July. This time, we spotted them underneath the male dove. They looked furry, not feathery. When they got bigger, they had more feathers.
One afternoon, we saw all four doves in the planter. It was feeding time. Each baby poked its beak into a parent's beak while the adult birds pumped up a special fluid created for the squabs. Hoping to get a better look, we went outside, but the adult birds froze. They were not comfortable enough with our presence at feeding time to continue. The hungry babies eventually followed their parents' example, so we went back inside the house.
This third cycle, we saw the little ones leave the nest, or fledge. One mid-July morning, at watering time, the two young doves were in the planter by themselves. We knew their parents thought they were ready to fly. The adult birds were used to me watering, but the babies on their own were spooked by my actions. With a noisy thrumming of flapping wings, both birds flew confidently away from the nest, leaving it empty once more.
This spring, the doves might return to the planter outside our front door to lay more eggs and share the neighborhood with us again. We hope they do.
Caption: Max and Ellis learn about doves.
Caption: Eggs in the nest
Caption: Look closely. See a squab under the adult?
Caption: Adult male with the first squab
Caption: Furry-feathery squab