One For The Birds

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Morning Doves

Birds have a special place in my heart.

As a tot I watched my grandfather tend his caged finches every Saturday morning. In elementary school I memorized a poem by Italian poet Giovanni Pascoli about a swallow that was shot while returning to the nest. It vividly described the mother bird falling and dying but still holding a bug in her beak, dinner for her little ones. That poem stayed with me through the years. I’m convinced it was why I volunteered at Mission San Juan Capistrano. You know, when the swallows come back to Capistrano? There weren’t any swallows left but the Mission gardens had plenty of doves.

These days I feed all kinds of birds, small medium and large. On mornings I have time to linger and sip coffee on the terrace, I try to decipher the meaning of their interaction. Do they speak bird language? Do they greet one another? I’m familiar with the cooing and the chirping, and I believe there is even more to their singing.

They seem to have a chain of command. The way some birds move to make room at the feeder as others arrive, it’s not related to size. Maybe it’s their way of adding a plate to the table.

And then there are doves. Not snow white like those at the Mission, these are common doves—if you can call such wonders of nature common. They travel in couples and share the seeds from beak to beak, one to the other. Perhaps they live happily ever after, or not.

I tend to name things—living creatures, objects, plants…well, you know what I mean. I named my doves The Newlyweds because they seemed inseparable and began to build a nest. The female perched on a pillar and waited for the male who brought a twig in his beak. The twig must not have been up to the building code or high standards of the Missus because the minute he laid it on the ledge, she sent it straight to the ground, wings flapping, but no feathers flying. This went on for a few days. No nest, but a few blades of dry grass where she waited, while many good-sized twigs littered the concrete around the base of the pillar along with lots of dove droppings. And so it was that when the time came to lay the eggs, there was still no nest. The Missus laid her eggs on the block wall, but they fell and were smashed. I felt terrible for the poor mom-to-be.

I called friends, consulted the Internet and learned that doves reproduce steadily and as often as every few months. Sixty days should give the clueless Mister plenty of time to learn how to build a proper nest, which brings up another question:  Do birds fight like married couples? What about make-up sex? Inquiring minds want to know.

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