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Saving A Mourning Dove

I admit I’ve never really liked Mourning Doves.  They take over the tray feeders, sitting in the middle and keeping others out.  They sit in the birdbaths and enjoy the water while fouling it.  They won’t leave until they are done or until I chase them off and they don’t sing.  Their worst offense is eating my vegetable seedlings or just sitting on them.

We’re not enemies, just not really allies.

The relationship changed three days ago when I found an injured dove in the garden.  One of his wings was mangled near its root and there was a little blood in the neck area.  He couldn’t fly.  He hopped away from me when I got close then froze when I got much closer.  All birds freeze when they know their hunter is in the neighborhood.  From the way he looked I guessed he had just escaped being hawk food.

The injured Mourning Dove with one wing badly mangled but lucky enough to escape.

The injured Mourning Dove with one wing badly mangled but lucky enough to escape.

I had conflicted feelings on whether I should let nature run its course or help him. Admittedly I consider Mourning doves mostly just a pest, however they aren’t bullies like the House sparrows or European starlings.  But letting any animal suffer is anathema to me.  After deciding to try to help him, we weren’t sure there were any rescue centers that would want to take a dove in since they’re so common.  We asked friends and colleagues if they knew any centers that would take a dove.  Suggestions came in by the end of the day, Friday, but it was too dark by then to find the dove and he’s pretty good at hiding even in bright day light.  It should be mentioned that the deer fence keeps out coyotes, foxes, dogs and other critters that would find an ambulatory and grounded dove a great chew toy.

Our friend Alison, a genuine bird lover with a lot of knowledge in this area, reminded us that he’s hiding and should be out in the morning.  Lucky for him that we fenced our backyard.  My concern was surviving the cold.

True to her word, he showed up the next morning trying and unable to reach a birdbath.  I got him in to a cardboard box and ready for transport.  I decided to keep him in the house for warmth.  This being a long weekend (Martin Luther King Day), we weren’t sure that any of these centers would be open.  He looked weak but still had a lot of fighting spirit.

A made up shelter with shaded paper for warmth, food and water.

A made up shelter with shredded paper for warmth, food and water.

Rescue centers in our area were closed but Alison came through with a rescuer who was willing to take him if we could transport him to New Jersey, a little bit over an hour’s drive.

He’s in good hands now.  I’ve never searched for a wildlife rescue center before.  It’s nice to know that there are so many people out there who are willing to help an injured wild animal even when it’s not on an endangered species list, let alone on a Sunday evening.  He refused our offer to help with expenses for the dove’s treatment.

In between this rescue mission, we still chased other doves off our tray feeder.  Ironic, isn’t it?  Our reasoning is helping those that cannot help themselves.  If you’re fine, you’re fair game.  The dove tormentor (we think) also showed up and stayed for a while, darting from trees to the pool fence and the roof.  A majestic Broad-winged hawk on patrol.

A Broad-winged hawk, probably the dove tormentor. He has al most three feet wingspan

A Broad-winged hawk, probably the dove tormentor. His wingspan stretch out almost three feet and sporting a short tail.

I love birds of prey as much as song birds and we have plenty of hawks around here: Red-tailed, Broad-winged, Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s.  I have difficulty telling the Broad-winged hawk apart from the Cooper’s hawk if I can’t see their tails.

Frontal up close

Broad-winged hawk from the front, up close

Cooper's hawk has much longer tail. This image is from a couple of years ago when I caught him in the act of dismantle a bird.

Cooper’s hawk has a much longer tail. This image is from a couple of years ago when I caught him in the act of dismantling a bird.

One of the Cooper's hawk decided that our kitchen is also his kitchen; he hang out on the woodpile outside the kitchen.

One of the Cooper’s hawks decided that our kitchen is also his kitchen; he hangs out on the woodpile outside the kitchen waiting for his food to come in to the nearby feeders.

We never chase the hawks away as population and rodent control is in their job description.  If the birds or rodents are fast enough they’ll continue to live on, nature’s rule.  But if they’re merely injured like the dove, we’ll help give them a second chance.

We are waiting for an update on his condition and hope that he can be healed.  It is within the soul of all birds, the need to kiss the sky.