Thursday, May 31, 2012

My beloved white-winged doves

The beautiful white-winged dove (Zenaida asiatica) is one of my favorite migrant birds. They spend the cool months—from October on-- in Mexico and Central America, then come up here just ahead of the saguaro bloom (late March to early April). One of the great iconic sights of the Sonoran desert is a white-winged dove atop a blooming or fruiting saguaro.

Dove & Saguaro at dawnWhite-winged dove on saguaro at dawn

A lot of folks I know, including fellow docents at Tohono Chul Park don’t like white-wingeds because they are noisy (“Who Cooks For YOUUUUUUUUU!”), ubiquitous, and messy. To me, the sound of their calls is a comfort, a harbinger and and a musical accompaniment of summer in the desert. They are frequent breeders, so there are a lot of them, and they’re big birds with big scats. I find them sweet and endearing.

White-wingeds are wonderfully devoted parents. In a post last year I described in detail the arduous and ultimately heartbreaking nesting adventures of a pair at the Park.

More recently, a pair successfully fledged a pair of dovelets in our carport.White-winged family in carport 5-15-2012 5-16-01 PM 2572x1543

They are at it again, using the same nest. When the babies fledged, one apparently wasn’t quite ready, and the two spent their first night of freedom huddled motionless on a wall outside our bedroom patio. I was afraid a predator would get them, but found them in the morning atop the water-heater closet:White-winged siblings 5-16-2012 3-12-04 PM 1929x1331

I haven’t seen them since, but I recently read that white-wingeds are known for staying together with nestmates and other family members, sometimes for life, so perhaps they are taking care of each other, wherever they are.

This is one of my favorite white-winged pictures. This bird was cooling his feet on a hot July day on a cactus fountain at Tohono Chul Park:

                                                                                  White-winged dove at Tohono Chul Park on cactus fountain