Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Making Your Own Place

Last year we had tenants in all of our birdhouses, and as usual a bit of backyard drama when one of the fledglings took a wrong turn. This year things have been pretty quiet, and so far I've seen only one timid little lady inspecting the properties:

Shy Thing is a mourning dove, I believe, and the above is the best picture I've gotten of her so far (everything else is a blur of feathers as she takes off the minute I snap the shot.) But while I've been skulking about trying to shoot her, she keeps returning to the same spot on the wall cabinet -- a small space between two empty birdhouses. Then she just sits there until she notices me and flies away.

Today I noticed a couple of twigs sticking out from the top edge of the cabinet. I can't actually see the top of the cabinet because I'm a shrimp, so I decided to climb on a chair to check out just what Shy Thing was squirreling away between the birdhouses:

No way was she building a nest between two birdhouses, I thought. Maybe she was cleaning out an old nest from one of the houses. Maybe she was trying to build herself a little bonfire and roast marshmallows. Even standing on the chair, I couldn't really see. So I held the camera up over my head and took a third blind shot:

Yep. She not only built herself a nest, she's already filled it.

I cannot for the life of me understand birds. There are three perfectly good birdhouses right there she could have nested in. Right there. All she had to do was move to the right three inches, the left two inches, or up six inches. She would have had a real roof over her head, and walls around her and the babies to keep them safe.

But it seems Shy Thing is also Stubborn Thing. Evidently when she couldn't find a place that suited her, she made one for herself -- not where every other bird that has nested here used, but a new and very different place. Okay, a really dumb place (baby, it's a seven-foot drop from the top of that cabinet) but one that obviously seemed right to her.

Sometimes doing that -- making your own place in the world -- is risky, and scary, and almost not worth the trouble it's sure to cause. But if playing it safe and doing what everyone else does makes you unhappy and doesn't feel right, how is that really better?

And who knows, maybe Shy Thing heard that we're bird lovers, and counted on us rigging something around the cabinet top to keep her babies from taking a header. Which of course we'll do. Shy Thing may not like our birdhouses, but she's chosen the top of our cabinet as her nursery. The least we can do is baby-proof it for her.

Added: I tried a different tactic this morning and Shy Thing finally let me snap a shot of her on the nest.


  1. Definitely a mourning dove! Now I'm nostalgic because we had a ton of them around the house where I grew up. Though sometimes they'd make their nests in crevices and sheltered spaces, occasionally we'd see their nests in a more open spot like that as well--the crows took advantage, unfortunately.

  2. Anonymous12:11 AM snakes? no frogs? actual birds inhabiting the bird house...or at least the general vicinity???

  3. Yes, that is definitely a mourning dove. I get quite a few & would know the markings anywhere.
    Such a wistful, longing song. Beautiful.
    I'm glad she found a good home. :)

  4. I'd be surprised if she did nest in the birdhouses - the pigeon family prefer to build in the crook between branches, and aren't known for nesting "under cover". Their nests tend to be spartan to the point of ridiculous, and it's not unknown for eggs to fall through the very lax efforts at nest building.

    Which is a good thing really, or we'd be up to our ears in pigeons...

  5. Anonymous2:19 AM

    Ohmigosh, babyproof it for her!? You just melted my heart and made me laugh at the same time. Maybe a baby monitor too.

  6. Aw. Thanks for watching out for the babies, and yes, sometimes you can't do what all the other birds are doing.

  7. Anonymous8:47 AM

    aw so cute! You'll have adorable little baby birds soon :). I love that bit about making your place in the world. That is a brave little dove.

  8. Anonymous9:35 AM

    We had a pair of mourning doves make a nest in the gutter in our backyard last Spring. I feared a hard rain would wash the nest away, but fortunately we didn't have any rain while the babies were in the nest.

    I had so much fun filming the process, especially the morning I caught both parents encouraging the babies to walk along our roof and take some practice flights. All the babies survived and thrived; I felt so proud.

    Enjoy watching the parents and the babies when they arrive!

  9. Awww. I think that's sweet you're going to try and babyproof for her.

    I have a climbing rose bush along my deck that's only about two feet from the door and last year, I had a pair of cardinals nest there. (Very shy birds, cardinals) They're babies hatched successfully and for a few days, it was fun. I'm thinking the thorns kept the bigger birds away and hoping they come back this year.

    You do realize that mama mourning dove will be back next year, yes?

  10. What a great story, and exactly what I needed to hear today!

  11. I had a pair of doves attempt a nest in my yard last year. Their efforts were...haphazard. They seemed to pick the worst spot in the least-supportive branches of an angel's trumpet. A Cooper's Hawk drove them off before they could finish the nest.

    Your visitor's nest looks sweet. At least it's in a stable location! :)

  12. Mourning doves are my favorite bird. The call reminds me of summers visiting my grandmother. We have some around here that just make me smile when I hear them.

  13. How fun! And congrats! :)

  14. Anonymous7:37 PM

    I need to thank you for the message of this post, because it struck me at just the right time. *-*

  15. Ahhhh yes, we have a pair of mourning doves too! We put a bird box out for them, but instead they prefer to sit in the flower boxes on our balcony for hours watching the world go by. Funny birds and lovely.

  16. Mourning Doves build the most fragile looking nests! What a joy and pleasure. You are fortunate to be sharing her experience!

    Blessings, Laura


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