When Doves Fly


Dove

Exhibit A.

I have a long history with birds — and even though my head has been a target for wings and talons, I still love having them in the yard. Despite the amount of documentation about their intelligence (check out this fascinating documentary on crows), it’s still safe to say that birds can be — well — bird-brained.

As proof, I offer exhibit A (pictured above).

A pair of doves decided to build a nest in one of the coconut palm trees in the backyard. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, the nest actually looked quite secure and protected.  Hidden behind a wall of coconuts, the nest had added support from the curve of the frond.

Doves

But the doves selected one of the lowest palm fronds — and in the world of palms, the lowest fronds are the ones that turn brown with age and then fall off.  Far be it from a bird to care about such things, especially when eggs need to be laid and sat upon and hatched. Birds leave the bigger worries to people.

Each morning, Joe and I would look upward, counting heads from the ground. Just the mother up there? Any baby doves yet? Will the frond hold on until everyone can fly?

Even at night, from the bedroom window, I would stare at that frond, a silhouette against the night sky. Was it my imagination, or was the frond hanging a bit lower?

And so the weeks past. Human eyes looking upward and counting heads. At first we could only see a parent dove. Then, two more heads eventually popped up. And another parent dove would fly back and forth to the nest with food.

Doves

Doves

As excited as we were to see the family of doves, we were also worried that the frond would dip downward and fall before the baby doves had a chance to leave the nest.   As long as the weather remained calm, we thought, that might buy the nest some more time.

Then, the rainy season began and one recent storm was especially wicked. From the back window, we watched the sky darken. Wind thrashed the trees, lightning split the sky around us, and the windows and picture frames rattled with each clap of thunder.

Still, we stood at the window, keeping an eye on that one frond as it was blown up and down and sideways. Could the lowest frond hold on? Was the nest secure enough? Were the babies safe?

The storm continued well into the night. At first morning light, Joe and I went to the window and — at the risk of sounding like a line from “The Star-Bangled Banner” — the frond was still there.

We stepped outside and again looked upward, the way we had on so many mornings before this. The nest was still secure in the grip of the frond — not a twig out of place, in fact — but it was empty.

Empty.

We looked all around the base of the tree. Had the fledglings been blown out of the nest, surviving the storm on the ground? Or had the wind blown them into the canal?

We looked into the brackish water — shredded flowers, palm fronds, debris . . . no doves. Where were they? Did they survive the storm only to be eaten by some animal? We had never seen them out of the nest, so we weren’t even sure they could fly.  Maybe, we said to one another as a means of comfort, we missed a day of observation and they had flown away before the storm.

As I turned to walk back to the house, I came face to face — or rather ankle to beak — with one of the fledglings, feathers clumped together as a result of the rain. It made no move to flee from me. It stood remarkably still, only moving to peck at the ground.

Doves

One had survived. But could it fly? Where were the parent doves?  How would we get it back into the nest? Although the nest was on a lower frond, that frond was still about 25 feet off the ground.

Joe and I decided that we would watch it over the course of the day to see what it would do after its feathers dried a bit.

Just then, from the corner of my eye, there was a flutter — the other baby dove. It not only survived, it had flown from the rim of the wheelbarrow to the ground. It then flew upward, landing on a palm frond.

Doves

The ground-bound dove also spotted the activity and, inspired by its sibling, flapped its wings for one of its first flights upward.

Eventually, both doves flew to one of the higher palm fronds, comfortable, watching us as much as we watched them, and then falling asleep.  It had been a dark and stormy night, after all — and they now had a few short flights under their wings (pun intended).

They not only survived the storm, but also what we thought was a precarious nesting location — and a better location could not have been found.  Protected from the elements.  Hidden from predators.  Near food.  Structurally sound.

There’s a lot to be said about being bird brained.

More Bird-Brained Visitors

Ibis.

Ibis.

Muscovite ducklings get ready to take the plunge.

Muscovy ducklings get ready to take the plunge.

Parrots on a wire.

Parrots on a wire.

28 thoughts on “When Doves Fly

  1. What a cool story, and remarkable photography. You were able to get up close and personal, as they say. I have always heard doves mate for life.True? Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi Arch City. I’m not sure if they mate for life, but I do usually see them in pairs. When I see a pair hanging out near the house, I take it as a sign of comfort. 🙂

  2. Great photos as usual. Nice of the birds to have enough “brains” to allow you to get that close to them. : )

    And you are right again–birds don’t worry like us goofy humans!! I for one worry too much. I did not think I was a worrier, but as I age–it seems to be getting worse…

    • Hi Alesia. I’m with you on that worrying more as we get older. I can work myself into quite a frenzy in the days leading up to a flight — and I used to love to fly. Maybe as we become more aware of the world — and our own mortality — things take on a whole new meaning.

  3. Aw, glad they were alright! So cute! We had a robin construct several nests under our deck, only to realize each time that the spaces between the floor boards let the water through onto the nest. I feel bad that he went through all the effort, but at least he must have eventually figured out that there was a better spot somewhere else!

    • Hi Indie. Nest construction is fascinating — and you do need to take a look at the crow documentary! The difficult part is that we want to try and coach wildlife into building in a better location — and they just don’t listen to us! In the dove’s case, they did very well on their own.

    • Hi Brenda. It was nail-biting time — especially as we peered into the canal. I definitely didn’t want to see them floating down there. And there was a huge relief when we spotted the babies, and even more relief when we saw them fly.

  4. Nice story, sounds like the doves had their child raising planned down to the day! Doves don’t have much of a reputation around here for quality home construction, there have been several storms with a less than happy ending….
    The picture of your soaked baby standing on the ground is perfect! I can finally imagine how an actual dodo would have looked like, something about the picture seems a little fat legged and…. dopey?

    • Hi Bittster. I know what you mean about that photo. I think that bird had a rough night and had to grow up pretty fast if it was going to make it in the world. Weathering a storm. Sleepless night. And learning to fly. I need a nap just thinking about it! 🙂

  5. Pingback: oh who can stop at only three inspirations a week :) | eagles float

    • Hi Elaine. That’s the million dollar question! From the ground, all doves look like — well — doves. And there are always doves hanging out on the telephone wires in front of the house. I’m hoping the little ones have joined the group. 🙂

  6. I was on the edge of my seat when you found the one little survivor, just sure that was it! I’m so glad that both were spared the storm. How lovely to have had the opportunity to watch the parents in the nest and take you on the adventure of seeing the little ones that came after! I love watching birds. There is something so relaxing (except in this case!) about watching them instinctually care for their young. I have never seen an Ibis in nature. I would LOVE to have a close encounter. Great photos, Kevin!

    • Hi Debra. We were so relieve that both birds survived — and are now hanging out with other doves. I’ve also noticed so many different birds here — each day, there is something new to learn. 🙂

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