This time of year, if you happen to come across a Mourning Dove sitting quietly in the low branches of a conifer tree, don't think it's tame, or injured. It's probably sitting on its nest. It will sit still there as long as its nerves can take it, hoping you will not notice it, and walk by. If you do get too close for comfort, it will burst from the tree in an explosion of feathers and whistling wings, fall to the ground about 20 feet away, and run about with one wing dragging behind, as if injured. Obviously, it's hoping to draw your attention away from the nest.


If that's what you want to call it. The Mourning Dove's nest looks like something thrown together by an over-caffeinated field mouse. A bunch of tiny twigs somehow arranged into a flat surface in a V-shaped horizontal branch, where the female lays two creamy white eggs, always two. It's a wonder the eggs don't just roll right off, the nest is so flat and flimsy.

The male and female doves take turns sitting on the eggs. She sits on them overnight, and then they change shifts every four hours or so throughout the day. I know this because back in my younger days I kept a pair of domestic Ring-necked Doves, and I used to enjoy watching the changing of the guard. I am told that the Mourning Dove female and male behave the same.

The Mourning Dove's gentle coo-coo is one of the most relaxation-inducing calls that exist in nature. It’s a hauntingly beautiful sound that has served as peaceful background music to many a sunset in my life.


One last Mourning Dove tidbit--how they drink. Most birds drink by taking water in their beaks, then tipping their head back and letting the water run down their throat. The dove can't (or doesn't want to?) do that. Instead, it sucks the water up into its throat, same as a horse does. So to get a drink, a dove has to find a pool that is at least deep enough to cover its beak and create a suction. So there you go, in case this ever comes up in a Trivia contest at your favorite watering hole.

Dan's Feathursday Feature is a weekly contribution to the COS blog featuring the thoughts, insights and pictures of Chicago birder, Dan Lory on birds of the Chicago region.