August 12, 2009 1 Comment
Over the last month and a half I’ve had the pleasure of hosting two stand-out examples of responsible parenting. These role models, however, happen to be doves.
At first I was skeptical why a pair of birds would want to build a nest on my front porch, given that we go in and out fairly frequently. To be fair, the rose vines framing the entryway are thick and strong as well as stylish, and few bad guys (except us) would even think of going up in there. They spent a couple of days scoping out the place – I like to think that they were comparison shopping – but in the end, convenience, location, and that je ne sais quoi won out. A few sticks and pieces of dried grass started showing up, and eventually there was a nest.
After a couple weeks I saw a scraggly little chick, but then we went on vacation and it was gone when we came back. I thought maybe I’d imagined it, but the doves were still there, and a couple weeks later there were definitely two chicks. Apparently, doves can have multiple broods in a single mating season, and usually use the same nest. They may even use the same nesting site year after year. So now I knew I was looking at the second brood.
Since I was actually home this time, I watched these guys grow from little pin-feathered ugly ducklings into… well, still kind of ugly but at least full feathered young doves (they had gangly awkward tweenager written all over them). The parents still took turns on the nest but switched more frequently, now that they had two hungry mouths to feed. To eat, the chicks basically stick their beaks inside the parent’s and gobble up whatever pre-processed yumness is there. Though interesting, it’s really not that pleasant to watch.
The nest soon got a bit crowded as the chicks were almost as big as the adults and would flap their wings haphazardly from time to time. I could sense the parent doves getting a little frustrated and sometimes the male would perch on the branch outside the nest to get some fresh air. The more adventurous chick joined him once (I think he also got most of the food; he was the bigger one). I noticed yesterday that the parents would sometimes both leave the nest, and the chicks would get restless and hop about in the vines.
This morning, I opened the door to find the nest empty. I guess it was time! Maybe the parents will come back and have another brood. If not, maybe next year.
Photos (from left to right and top to bottom):
1. The female parent, I think. It was slimmer and smaller than the other one.
2. The male parent, I think. Bigger and slightly more colorful.
3. The male on the nest, with one chick visible.
4. The male again, with both chicks getting a little too big for the nest.
5. The big chick sitting with Dad on the branch. The other chick is behind them to the right.
6. Both chicks out of the nest, wondering where Mom and Dad are.