Mourning doves provide a positive distraction in a hectic world


Submitted by Allison Goldman

“Mack” with “Simon” and “Garfunkel.” Photo/Allison Goldman

Northborough- With all the craziness in this world today, we’ve been honored for the past month with a very special positive distraction from nature. On May 8, we had two mourning doves that decided to build a nest on our porch inside a flower box that we had not been using. Since the porch is right next to our sliding doors, we’ve been able to learn a lot about them. The nest took about three days to build and it was a team effort. The male, whom we named “Mack”, would go out in search of light sticks to return back in his mouth to drop off at the nest. When he returned, he would stand on the female’s back, whom we named “May”, and hand her the stick with his beak and then fly off to find another stick. May would take the stick from her beak and then place it in the perfect spot to build the nest. Most of the time I was able to tell May and Mack apart since Mack has a shorter tail than May. May also has a little more pinkish coloring around her head and chest area when she sits in certain ways on the nest.

After they built the nest, they both took turns sitting in the nest for about 14 days. There was a moment when May and Mack switched shifts when we were able to see two white eggs. During the time they sat in the nest, I started singing and talking to them often through the screen door of the slider. May would always stay alert as if she was trying to figure out what I was singing or saying. Mack would stay alert at first but then started to fall asleep. Since I sang and talked to them often, I would inch myself closer to them each time, testing the boundaries, and stepping onto the porch until I was about a foot away from them. I was trying to take as many pictures as possible, since one of my hobbies is photography. I earned both of their trust pretty quickly, which is extremely impressive for wild birds. At no time have we ever fed them since I think it’s important for them not to become dependent on being fed by a human, yet they still let us both come close, which I found amazing.

Although we didn’t get the chance to see the babies hatch, we know that they hatched on either May 26 or May 27, since we had a glimpse of them very small during one of the moments that the parents switched shifts. Within 2-3 days after they hatched, they were easy to see better and take pictures of. After reading up on mourning birds, we learned that the babies aren’t fed worms at all by their parents. They are fed crop milk from both parents. It was a very unique experience to be able to watch and take pictures so closely and to actually see the babies being fed by their parents.  Since two of my favorite music artists are Simon and Garfunkel, I named the babies after these talented musicians, thinking that they, too, will sing. Of course, the gender of the babies is unknown so we took a guess. If they were both females, we hope they didn’t mind the male names we gave them. Simon was a little bigger than Garfunkel so it was easy to tell them apart. We didn’t hear them sing or chirp at all. Even Mack and May are pretty quiet overall. Once in a while, during the switching of the birds, you would hear a little hooting but not what we expected.

On May 9, shortly after singing and talking to the babies, I had the chance to witness Simon fly away. Before Simon flew away, May bowed her head several times towards the trees while she was sitting on the edge of the porch. Then, several seconds later, Simon flew away. May and Mack left Garfunkel in the nest overnight, alone. When I went to check on Garfunkel at night, I think that spooked him/her and he/she flew away.

On May 10, we had the chance to see Simon again since he/she flew back in the nest for a bit and took off again. We also had the chance to see May and Mack upgrading their nest with more sticks. May has been the most vocal I’ve ever heard her on this particular morning. From what I’ve read up on mourning birds, they can come back up to five times in one year to the same nest. I sure hope they do come back. It is truly a joy to bird watch so close-up.