We are again hosting a pair of Mourning Doves who are looking for a nest-building site. They camp out on our porch. The male is slightly bigger, has a reddish breast and sports a sky-blue cap.
They had a nest in a backyard tree last year. The branches which supported it are missing, a result of tree trimming. Oops.
They look a little lost. We’re not sure what they’ll do. Will they remain stuck in the past? Or will they move on?
About 3 years ago, a pair of robins insisted on trying to build a next in between our house and the railing of our back porch. I decided to call it a “hurrah’s nest.” That means it was a very messy affair.
That was the not first time I began to doubt that birds’ nest-building skills were completely instinctive and that they always constructed their homes just right. Another pair of Mourning Doves could not be dissuaded from building a nest on top of our outside stereo speaker about 7 years ago, even when we tried covering it with a towel.
Last year we hosted a chipping sparrow’s nest in one of our little evergreen trees.
I figure it’s fitting that birds can be amateurish nest builders. After all, I’m an amateur bird watcher. One of my favorite essays by E.B. White is “Mr. Forbush’s Friends.” It’s about the often bizarre behavior of birds, often reported on by amateur observers (in Essays of E.B. White, 1977). A few excerpts:
“Mr. J. L. Davison, of Lockport, New York. Found a black-billed cuckoo and a mourning dove sitting together in a robin’s nest. Nest contained two eggs of cuckoo, two of dove, one of robin. Bad management. June 17, 1882.”
“Mr. Frithof Kumlien. Tells of an old, worn, partly blind blue jay that was fed, tended, and guarded by his companions, who never deserted him. They regularly guided him to a spring, where he bathed.”
“Friend of Mr. Forbush’s, no name. Bought farm in Touisset, found osprey’s nest atop chimney. Ospreys in charge of premises. Owner removed nest. Birds immediately began rebuilding, using sticks, clods, and stones. Owner, now desperate, shot female. Male went off, returned a few hours later with another mate. Pair went on with rebuilding operations. Filled chimney from bottom to top with sticks, stones, and rubbish. Owner accepted challenge, shot both birds. Large section of chimney had to be removed on one side, for removal of material choking flue. Perseverance. No date.”
That last one is about never giving up. I hope our Mourning Doves do the same.