Frowsy fledglings

“Fascinating.  Mourning doves, house finches and northern mockingbirds are nesting side by side in the tree outside my patio, no more than a foot between each nest.  It’s like the avian suburbs.”[1]  That was my Facebook status update on April 2.

Thick evergreen foliage subverted my attempts to gratify a photographic jones for all three nests with parents brooding, let alone for the hatchling doves I could see feeding on crop milk.  Images taken these past weeks have shown limb and leaf and little else save the occasional shadow that might or might not be a bird.[2]

Yet my lack of pictorial success to date would not continue.

Yesterday I stepped outside to enjoy the unending rain but instead found myself beguiled by two frowsy fledglings.  More specifically, two just-from-the-nest mourning doves (a.k.a. rain dove; Zenaida macroura).[3]

Two fledgling mourning doves (a.k.a. rain dove; Zenaida macroura) sitting on the ground (2010_04_18_054045)

The parents briefly watched me from their perch on the patio roof.  Being mourning doves, they worry little about people.  And I’ve been around them so much recently that they know I’m no scapegrace and that I pose no risk to the children, so they went on with their preening whilst I photographically disported with the chicks.

A fledgling mourning dove (a.k.a. rain dove; Zenaida macroura) standing amongst some plants (2010_04_18_054096)

Deep shadows from an overcast sky coupled with the earthen and verdant colors on the ground proffered an oneiric setting for images as the two aptly colored young birds meandered about beneath the tree.  No matter my nearness to them, I did not discover the threshold for their flight response.  Instead, they glanced at me if I moved but otherwise discounted my presence.

Two fledgling mourning doves (a.k.a. rain dove; Zenaida macroura) looking up (2010_04_18_053915)

They did keep looking up at the adults on the roof, however, as if checking to make sure Mom and Dad hadn’t vanished.  This made for more than a few delightful giggles from me each time the chicks cocked their heads to the side and stared into the falling rain with monocular intent.

Two fledgling mourning doves (a.k.a. rain dove; Zenaida macroura) sitting on the ground (2010_04_18_054142)

They never strayed far from each other.  Where one went, the other was soon to follow.

Close-up of a fledgling mourning dove (a.k.a. rain dove; Zenaida macroura) (2010_04_18_054228)

The biggest hurdle I faced came from the patio fence itself.  The spaces between the slats are smaller than the end lens element, so clear views either meant standing up and leaning over the fence or finding that just right position through the fence where telephoto distance overcame the peripheral wood in the frame.

A fledgling mourning dove (a.k.a. rain dove; Zenaida macroura) walking across the ground (2010_04_18_053901)

The fledglings eventually moved through the fence and settled on the patio, and their parents came down to join them.  All four birds napped peacefully for the afternoon.

But by sunset I mindlessly walked out there thinking they must certainly have moved back to the tree.  The parents had, yes, but the juveniles had taken position on the fence, two fist-size bundles of feathers nestled together in the dark.

Long before sunrise this morning I found both kids in the tree.  By first light the entire family had vanished.  Off to face the world…

— — — — — — — — — —


[1] Although I often refer to this tree as “the tree of life” for all the wildlife and wonder it brings near, it has a dark side for which I call it “the tree of death.”  It historically has been a killer of bird nests.  The tree is situated against the west wall.  This makes it a prime target for the violence of spring thunderstorm-related winds, hail and heavy rain.  It was heavy rain that wiped out all of the mockingbird chicks a few years ago, one at a time washing them from the nest, then from the tree itself.  It was a few years before that when strong winds destroyed three successive mourning dove nests with eggs, the same doves trying over and over after each assault.  But the paucity of spring thunderstorms this year has provided an unexpected opportunity for birds even as it has left me wondering about the mysterious atmospheric silence.

[2] I have captured photos of the parent birds as they built their nests and as they came and went from the tree.  Capturing images of these three species is an easy thing in this area and can be done throughout the year, so those pictures did not provide the fix I was looking for from these three nests.  The fact that the nests are just above eye level and within arm’s length of me made it all the worse that I haven’t been able to find a clear view for photography.

[3] It seems most appropriate that these birds are sometimes called rain doves.  The weekend brought nothing but precipitation and cool temperatures, so discovering the fledglings yesterday in the midst of steady rain felt all the more apropos.

19 thoughts on “Frowsy fledglings”

  1. these pictures are perfect! and perfectly cute subjects, too. So glad you got their photos. I love the head tilt, too…always makes me smile when birds do that. Mourning doves are adorable fledgies!

    1. Thanks, Jill! They really are cute little munchkins. They came back later in the morning and seem to be hanging out here. Which just fine by me.

  2. All wonderful pictures, and I really like the one where they both have leaned over in order to peer upward. Such sweet little birds…their calls always make me feel peaceful.

    1. Thanks, Amber. They’re cute as buttons. They’re still here, either on the fence or in the tree or on the ground or on the roof. They’re really taking to the fence, and they don’t seem at all bothered by me. I have to take some more photos.

    1. It’s my pleasure, Laura. How could I go wrong with such devilishly sweet birds? And they’re so small; only half the size of an adult. I’m smitten!

  3. Oh what charmers these are! And you’ve captured the beauty of their plumage so subtly. Not an all-trumpets-blazing kind of a colouring, but that loveliness of freckled beige and brown all flushed with peach in more varieties of tone that one could possibly imagine. Gorgeous Jason.

    1. Thank you, Clive! Mourning doves aren’t at all pushy with plumage colors as adults; it’s all subtle tones and currents. I’m not at all surprised the juveniles are equally quiet in their display. But it’s so beguiling to me, so understated yet entrancing–for both adults and children.

    1. They’re growing quite accustomed to me, Christy. As much time as I spend on my patio watching nature happen at the lake, the two kids are treating me more as a curiosity than a threat. Even their parents are more skittish. And thank you! Nature photography is a passion for me, so I practice practice practice.

  4. Ahhhh. Tense today. Now, after floating southwest to your country, I coo at baby MODOs. Jason, I think you have something much more than artistic talent. I want your camera,your charm, and yer picture takin’ skilz. Birds pose for you.

    1. If these darling birds helped take the edge off your day, Mary, I’m thrilled to hear it. Like you, I’ve found nature is often just the medicine I need no matter what ails me.

      And you’re much too generous. Thank you! I’m learning each day how to take better photos; in the process I’m learning how to get closer to nature without causing panic. Well, sometimes.

  5. I giggled at the upward glances, too; it’s a nice capture!

    A pair nested in a window-mounted birdfeeder at my office years ago, just inches from my face. It’s beyond astonishing how quickly they grow!

    1. Thanks, Jain! That eyes-up image makes me smile every time I look at it.

      You’re absolutely right! Only a week before they fledged, I watched these barely feathered little birds in the nest. Now–literally right now–they’re lying on the patio fence side by side, and I’d swear they’re larger and have more feathers than they did just a few days ago.

      And they’re quite accustomed to me now, so they don’t so much as blink when I walk outside even when they’re within a few feet of the door. This is the best entertainment in town!

  6. OMG the CUTE!!!

    These are one of my favourite birds. They make me want to cradle and cuddle them and give them a little kiss on the top of the head…they’re so soft -looking…

    1. Thanks for the ticklish laugh, Joy! They do seem a little less daft when young, don’t they? I think they’re beautiful as adults, but there’s something “thick” about them when they mature…

Leave a Reply