Welcome To Dove Central

East Valley Wildlife Director, Nancy, has been busy throughout the “dog days” of summer but managed to find time to send this article about one of our prolific native species…the dove.  The photo is Inca doves (one of the first species that I rescued many years ago). The Inca Dove is a smaller and more delicate version of the mourning dove (so named because of its plaintiff sound of “mourning”).

Submitted by Nancy:

Welcome to Dove Central.  Most of the birds we care for have decided that it’s just too darn hot in mid July to raise babies, but members of the dove family have other ideas.

About 95% of the calls we receive right now pertain to baby doves.  Ma and Pa Dove are devoted parents.  Both build the nest and take turns incubating their two eggs.  When the kids hatch, both parents produce a substance in their throat/crop called “crop milk” which really isn’t milk but a rich liquid loaded in protein and fat.  Baby doves grow rapidly and leave the nest at 11 or 12 days old.  No empty nest syndrome here; if the babies won’t leave by day 13, the parents will refuse to come to the nest to feed them.  They wait patiently on a nearby branch until the kids get hungry enough to flutter down to the ground.

 When they get to the ground , they hopefully find some protective shelter like a thick bush or ground cover.  The parents continue to feed them but they don’t stay with them.

A baby dove that leaves the nest at 11 days old will take about 4 days to become flighted.

They’re helpless against an assortment of predators including cats, dogs, kids, ants, and grackles.  They are especially vulnerable at night. 

 The majority of calls we are receiving right now deal with fledgling doves that have been attacked by cats or dogs.  Grackles are another major problem as they consider the young doves a handy food source.

 We also are receiving a lot of calls about “a dove that can’t fly so it must have a broken wing”.  As stated, the young doves are on the ground for several days before they can fly.

They should walk away from people if approached.  If you can walk up to a bird and pick it up easily, then it does need to be rescued.  Also consider the surroundings.  A playground or shopping center is not exactly ideal; neither is a tree full of grackles or a few cats sitting on a  nearby wall.

 Doves that are blown out of their nests during a wind storm or tree trimming can be renested.  Doves are the easiest birds to renest because the parents are so devoted.  A make shift nest out of a small natural fiber basket will do.  Put dried leaves/grass or pine needles in the bottom. Never use a cardboard box; for some reason this spooks the parents.  Plus it won’t be much use if a rain storm hits. 

 Make sure the baby(s) is alert and feels warm in the palm of your hand.  The nest doesn’t have to go in the original tree; just use a nearby tree but make sure it’s shady enough so the babies aren’t exposed to the direct sun.  The babies will make a soft whistly sound when they get hungry and the parents hone in on that like a GPS signal.  If the parents don’t find the nest after a few hours, then the baby should be taken to a rehabilitator.

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