The Arboretum’s Resident Mourning Dove
When Andrew Bunting was “hat racking” the large holly tree outside of the Arboretum offices early in the week of March 10, he came upon a nest with one white egg high up in the tree – easily visible from the second floor copier room window. The next day when he climbed the tree to resume his pruning there were two eggs in the nest so he put a few branches up to protect the nest from the worst of the sun and rain and we waited and watched. The mother dove – or maybe the father – appeared and took up her/his post in the nest.
I’d always thought of mourning doves as just pigeons without quite as bad a reputation but I was curious about why eggs were being laid this early in the year and investigated to find out more. They’re really quite interesting birds. Mourning doves breeding season is from February to October and they may breed several times in a season depending on food availability. Males select the nest site and construction takes at least 10 hours over a span of 3-4 days.
Mourning doves are monogamous and some pairs stay together through the winter. Both parents share incubating and feeding the young. Incubation lasts 14-15 days and the young leave the nest at about 15 days after hatching, but stay nearby till they’re more accomplished at flying – usually at about 30 days; males take over the feeding responsibilities during this period.
They have a number of known predators and are swift and maneuverable in flight so can escape most predators if they’re aware of their presence. As ruffed grouse do, an adult dove will try to lure predators away from the nest by pretending to be injured – the “broken-wing feign” – pretending they have a broken wing and fluttering away from their young.
Stay tuned – we’ll let you know when the chicks hatch and their progress as they “leave home.”