Sunday, September 03, 2017

The Doves of Our Lives

White-winged dove season is finally over. There are only a handful of these beautiful birds remaining, and soon they will be gone too, back to Mexico, where they spend the winter. It is always a sad time for me, because I can't know for certain that I will be here to greet them when they return next spring.

Below is a collage I made to celebrate my love affair with doves over the last few years. Most of the photos are of white-wingeds, but there are some mourning doves here too. Some notes on the collage follow.

Upper row shows doves being doves, doing dove things. The fourth photo over, of the long-beaked juvenile white-winged, was an exceptionally clueless dovelet who repeatedly flew into a brick wall in the carport of our previous home. He always seemed okay afterward, and I'm hoping he survived.

The central large photo is a nearly grown mourning dove fledgling who hung out in my private patio for a couple of weeks. I took the photo because I thought he was beautiful. The upper photo to the left of the mourning dove was one of my most-recent white-winged fledglings being fed in the patio by its mother. Adult doves produce a nutritious liquid in their crop (called "pigeon milk"), which they pump into the babies in a procedure that looks like a vicious mugging.
Immediately to the right of the central dove is a male white-winged holding a curved stick in his beak. I spent around an hour one morning watching him and his mate building a nest on the precarious top of a pole. The process was fascinating.

Just to the right of the nest-builder is a very, very special mourning dove who nested in a particular yucca at Tohono Chul for three years. She had the best-made, safest nest I ever saw for a dove. I thought she was a genius. I used to imagine that some day her offspring would take over the Park, producing a race of super-smart doves. But after three years the yucca grew in such a way that it no longer had a perfect nesting spot, and I never knowingly saw her again.
Finally, the small dove in the lower right-hand corner is an Inca dove I photographed in the Walk-in Aviary at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Inca doves were very common when I first moved back to Tucson in the late 1980's, but gradually disappeared from the central part of town and are now seldom seen. They are beautiful, sweet, very small doves with cinnamon-colored underwings and feathers that appear from a distance to be scaled. Nobody knows for sure why they have disappeared, but a common theory is that the very large Cooper's hawk population here has done them in.
If you have questions about any of the other doves in the collage, feel free to ask them in the "comments" below. Every dove has a story.


  1. Oh, that's a sick. Duh. thought it was some feathery whisker!I figured you discovered a new species. All the photos are informative. Keep adding to the collection!

  2. Yes, a sTick... a twig, whatever. I'd love to discover a new species!