I always like to step on my deck or into the backyard in the morning with a hot steaming cup of coffee, or toward evening to hear the call of doves. Their call is distinct — it is a unique sound in the bird world.
There are two doves in our area, the Eurasian collared-dove and the mourning dove. Eurasian collared-doves have plump bodies, small heads and long tails. They’re larger than mourning doves but slimmer and longer-tailed than a rock pigeon. The wings are broad and slightly rounded. The broad tail is squared off at the tip, rather than pointed like a mourning dove’s.
Eurasian collared-doves are chalky light brown to gray-buff birds with broad white patches in the tail. The bird’s collar is a narrow black crescent around the nape of the neck. In flight and when perched, the wingtips are darker than the rest of the wing.
Eurasian collared-doves perch on telephone poles, wires, and in large trees and give incessant three-syllable coos. Their strong flight pattern features bursts of clipped wingbeats and looping glides. When walking these doves bob their heads and flick their tails. Eurasian collared-doves often feed at backyard seed feeders and on spilled grain in stockyards and around silos.
Eurasian males give the distinctive koo-KOO-kook song to defend territories and attract mates. The song may be repeated 3–12 times with the middle syllable much longer than the first and last. Females advertise with a softer version of the song. Both sexes give a lower-pitched, slower version when searching for nest sites and building the nest
But my favorite is the mourning doves (also called turtle doves). We have two mourning doves that frequent our property by the feeders. I often watch from the window as the pair of them scoop up some spillage off the ground below one of the backyard feeders. I am glad to help them with food, but they are largely self-sufficient. Though most people think their cooing call sounds like a sad mourning sound, I actually find the sound of it somehow comforting.
It is interesting when the mourning dove grabs seeds off the ground; they are not necessarily eating them. Instead, they are stockpiling for digesting later. The seeds collect in the “crop,” which is simply an enlarged part of their esophagus.
They are primarily seed-eaters, not insect-eaters. They can and do eat weed seeds, which is certainly valuable to gardeners as well as farmers, or anyone living near overgrown vacant lots. They also like grain seeds around farm yards, silos and grain bins.
The cooooOOOOO-woo-woo-woo call of the mourning dove is almost always uttered by the male bird, not the female, and is a wooing call, an enticement to a mate or potential mate.
Mourning doves have long pointed wings and are almost falcon-like in appearance, while their pointed tails are longer than those of any other doves. These “design features” enable the birds to fly fast. Mourning doves have been clocked at 55 mph!
When the mourning and Eurasian doves lay eggs, it is almost always just two. Incubation takes just two weeks. Both males and females of the two species work together to feed their new babies something called “crop milk” or “pigeon milk” for the first few days of their life. Rich in protein and fat, it resembles cottage cheese, is secreted by the adults’ crop lining, and is regurgitated to the little ones. Weaning is fast, though — by the fourth day of life, the diet starts to segue to seeds, and by two weeks, the youngsters are nearly fledged.
Both the mourning and Eurasian dove pairs tend to mate for life.
Enjoy the sounds, beauty and wildlife of Boundary County.