Each year, my husband Greg and I purchase a new fern to hang from each side of our front porch. For the past three years two mourning doves, a male and female have chosen the fern on our front porch as home for their nest. Now when we buy our ferns, we do so with the knowledge that they will most likely be home to the doves. After doing quite a bit of research about mourning doves, (I have included some interesting facts at the end of this story), we are pretty sure the same two doves have been nesting in our fern these past few years. I have named them our “GG Doves”.
Over the years, we have become quite attached to our GG doves and as you will learn, we’ve become quite protective of them as well! I am always so anxious for the spring weather to hit so I can go look for that perfect fern to hang for our doves to nest. After hanging the fern it’s only a matter of a few days that our doves come to say hello and begin to build their nest. Bit by bit, within that first week, they have it built. Greg has learned how to carefully water the fern from the very edge of the pot so it doesn’t touch the nest. The doves seem to be accustomed to his morning watering routine and now they don’t even bother to move out of the nest while he’s watering.
This year our GG doves have hatched three separate groups of babies, today being the third. This will probably be their last group of babies before the cooler weather sets in and they leave for the rest of the year. We have 2 side light windows on each side of our front door and the ferns hang right in front of the windows, so we are able to sit with our morning coffee and watch the doves carry out their morning rituals. All is good with the world, UNTIL ….
A little over a week ago I was in the house and Greg was working out in the yard and I hear him yelling at something or someone. What the —- is happening out there?? So, I ran outside and I saw my husband walking towards a small object in our neighbor’s yard. As I got closer, I realized that the small object was one of our GG doves. Its eyes were open, but it was not moving. “What happened?”, I asked my husband. He said he was working in the yard and heard a loud thump coming from the front porch window. He looked over and saw a red-tailed hawk swooping away from the fern that housed our GG doves. Then he noticed the hawk was holding on to one of the doves with its talons, as it was trying to fly away.
Greg immediately began waving his arms, screaming at the hawk, which must have startled it because it dropped the dove right in our next door neighbor’s front lawn. This was about the time I joined my husband who was standing near the dove. It seemed to be dazed, as it was standing but it did not move. Greg got some gloves and as he got closer to pick up the dove, it flew away! It didn’t get far before we watched it land in another neighbor’s yard, just a few doors down. As we watched the hawk up in the sky, circle around us, we quickly ran to the yard where we saw it land. However, this yard was very populated with bushes, trees, flowers and rocks, not to mention that it was also on a very steep hill. The temps were in the upper 90’s that day, but we didn’t care. We searched everywhere for that dove. And then, as my husband was about to walk away, I spotted the dove hiding underneath a large bush! Greg put on his gloves and once more attempted to carefully pick up the bird, but it flew away yet again and this time we were not able to see where it flew. The sad part was that we could see the hawk watching over us from above and there was absolutely nothing else we could do to try and save our beloved dove. We walked back home and checked the nest. Neither mom or dad were in it. Just the little babies remained. All we could do was hope that mom or dad (we did not know which of them had been injured by the hawk) would eventually come back to the nest.
The next morning, we woke up and checked the nest. Yay! There was an adult dove in the nest with the babies. We had no idea if it was mom or dad, but at least one of them would be there to protect their chicks. We noticed that all throughout the day an adult was always sitting in the nest. Will they make it to see another day? I read that mom and dad doves take turns leaving the nest while the other stays with their babies, which is why it always seems like the bird never leaves the nest. While it appears that it’s the same bird that always sits in the nest, it is in fact different birds, depending on which is out hunting for food and water and which is watching over the nest.
On the third day I went to check on the nest and there was still an adult dove sitting in it. But then … to my surprise, I saw another adult dove standing on the walkway that leads to our front door, and this dove was very closely watching over the nest. Amazingly, both mom and dad GG doves were still alive!! They had miraculously survived the red-tailed hawk incident and I am sure that it was all because my husband just happened to be outside when that hawk decided to steal away our GG dove.
The interesting part of this story is that Greg and I had previously been following and watching a family of red-tailed hawks. We believe this hawk was part of that family. We had been watching this family of hawks grow each year and this year we had noticed a new baby red-tail that had joined their family.
I began thinking about the beauty and delicateness of life. I also thought about the circle of life and how while this family of doves hunt for seeds and water to nourish their bodies, the hawks in turn hunt for birds to nourish their bodies. While I am not one to interfere with the process of the circle of life, the hawks will need to find a different source of nourishment because these GG doves have become part of our family and are not available for consumption!
Now, since the hawks have a much longer life span than our doves, we will be following them for some time to come… hum…. what to name the red-tailed hawk family… stay tuned!
Fun Facts About Mourning Doves:
- It is fairly common to see them cuddling with each other as mating pairs are monogamous and often mate for life.
- When they lay eggs, it is almost always just two. Incubation takes just two weeks.
- Males and females work together to feed their new babies. Weaning is fast though and by two weeks to a month, the babies are nearly ready to begin their journey away from the nest.
- Mourning doves are able to mate throughout the year, but more often from spring to fall.
- The cooing sounds a dove makes is often confused with the hooting of an owl.
- The mourning dove tends to return to the same place for mating year after year.
Fun Facts About Red-Tailed Hawks:
- The red-tail is the largest of hawks, weighing between 2-4 pounds.
- The eyesight of a hawk is 8 times as powerful as a human.
- Talons are its main weapons.
- 85-90% of its diet is composed of small rodents, but they will also take medium-sized birds and reptiles.
- The hawk’s average life span in the wild is 20 years.
- They typically do not begin breeding until their third year. Pairs build a large stick nest near the top of a tree. (We have several of these in the trees around our yard) Two to four eggs are usually laid in April or May, hatching in about 30 days. The young remain in the vicinity of the nest until they can fly, then follow their parents as they learn to forage for themselves.