"A Water Tank"

Mourning Dove

mourning dove
       My Honey has some good bird stories he tells our Grandkids, like the summer when he was 14, and working on his uncle’s wheat ranch, in southern Idaho.

       It was toward evening and he was driving past an old isolated watering tank, on an abandoned ranch, when he saw birds, lots and lots of birds flying to that water tank. On their approach, they flew with bursts of speed, in erratic flight patterns, as though to confuse any predator looking for an evening meal. They landed, and after the birds had their fill of water, they were off like a bullet, each one going their own direction to a roosting spot for the night. This little drama was worth seeing again and again. The birds were Mourning Doves, like the ones found all across Utah and in your backyard. He wanted to learn more about the birds.

       He found that they would spend the day foraging in areas of cut wheat fields, alfalfa patches, and meadows looking for the dry, hard grains they liked to eat, and then each evening come back to the water tank for their evening drink. Doves drink up to 15 percent of their body weight daily. Neat! These are the kinds of teenage experiences that can change lives, as it did his. A spark of interest, and a bit of knowledge can start any young person’s wheels rolling.

       The Mourning Dove breeds from southeastern Alaska, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick southward clear to Mexico and Panama. Doves start flocking together in October and November to migrate. The juveniles go first, then the females, and finally the males. There are some that do not migrate, but depend on the good will of bird feeders for their source of food in winter.

       The Mourning Dove is recognizable by the small head, large body, and long tail. This was the principal Dove of southern Utah until the last three years. Now there is competition. Don’t get it mixed up with the Eurasian Collared Dove who is a lighter color and larger. Look for the spots on the back end of the wings of the Mourning Dove and listen for the peaceful song of ‘coo-awh, coo, coo, coo’. A song I love to wake to in the mornings. The urban areas of southern Utah are a mecca for Mourning Doves with a variety of plant growth for food, bird feeders, and ample water. Take an early morning walk and listen to the soothing calls of the Mourning Doves.

       Brenda Rusnell is the artist of the beautiful Mourning Dove in flight. If you have questions about birds, or any of the monthly Red Cliffs Audubon activities, call 435 673-0996.