It’s for the Birds

February 5th – One week closer to spring. I know it seems right now that we have complete snow cover, and spring seems a long way off, but in all reality,  it is closer than you think.

The winter birds are enjoying the feeders for sure right now. I have been using lots of feed. I fed 40 lbs of sunflower seed in the last two weeks. More than I did all winter last year, as I was gone some, and also the weather was milder. I have had finches, cardinals, blue jays, red-bellied woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, tree sparrows, (there are a lot of sparrows and birds in the sparrow family), one starling (Yay), and others. I’ve also had several house sparrows (about a flock of 15 go from bush to bush) as well and lots and lots of mourning doves.

Whenever you have Mourning Doves at your ground feeder, you are bound to see some interesting behavior. In winter you might see one bird run toward another while holding its head and tail in a horizontal plane, or you might see a bird quickly rise and lower one or both wings. Those actions are performed by dominant birds in a flock and usually make other birds move away from choice feeding spots. Wing-raising may even be directed toward squirrels that are feeding too close to the dove; in these cases, the wing may be lowered so quickly that it makes a clapping noise.

In the spring of the year, when mourning doves are more involved with courtship, you will see different behaviors. Males will run and hop short distances after females, bow down so their head touches the ground, lift up, puff out their chest, and give the call ooooooooo. You will see this throughout the spring and summer at your ground feeder.

People often think that the Mourning Dove is spelled Morning. Indeed, they are active in the morning, but their name actually refers to its most common call, which is a mournful sound. It is given almost exclusively by the male in the spring and summer and is a series of coos that sounds a lot like a very sad sound. The male mourning dove is in fact not mourning at all but is either trying to attract a mate or defend a small area around the nest.

The only other call you will hear from mourning doves is a shortened version of the series of coos. It sounds like Oahu almost and is given by the male as he calls the female to the nest site when the pair is choosing a site or actually building the nest. It can also be given by male and female during courtship or territorial conflicts.

Actually, as I was sitting here writing this, I just had a blue jay hit my front window, giving a scare to all the visiting birds. I bet it hurt.  However, it flew away unharmed. I bet you all have had the same thing happen at different times. Until next time, good bird watching.