Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Death of a Dove

The mourning doves I enjoy so much have been having a rough time since they returned to the yard just a couple of weeks ago. First, the weather changed drastically from hot to cold very quickly, and then, just another day or two later, the Cooper's hawk made a meal of one.

I always do enjoy seeing backyard hawks, despite the fact that when I do it often means my backyard flock has suffered a loss. The most recent casualty was just after the snow began to fall and my sparrows and finches were huddled in their brush pile; the mourning doves, however, do not frequent the shelter that profile provides, and the Cooper's hawk found that weakness. The hawk attacked and landed on the dove, but since the dove is so large and the hawk still young, it wasn't a fatal blow. The hawk was prepared for that, however, and it sunk its talons into the dove to wait. As the dove struggled, the hawk massaged its talons gently, driving them deeper into the dove until the struggle ended.

Staying out in the open for that long as the prey expires, however, is stressful to the hawk. It kept looking around, watching carefully for raiders or other potential predators. As soon as it could - as soon as its meal was less resistant - it flew off to eat in peace in a more secluded, secure place. The evidence of the dove's struggle was left behind in a bright splash of blood on the concrete curbing and a few scattered feathers, all that remained of one of the mourning doves I've been so happy to welcome back to the yard.

While this story has a tragic ending for one dove, I'm also pleased that it wasn't the only dove to have returned recently. While the flock may now be one smaller, I'm still happy to have the company of at least three more mourning doves, feeding and roosting in their patient way. Time will tell if the hawk is even more patient.


Birding is Fun! said...

I, for one, enjoy the circle of life observed in backyard birding. Cool and interesting post and pictures.

Wendy said...

I often joke that when you put up a bird feeder, you're feeding more than the seed eaters. It is a bird feeder, after all. Not the most pleasant thing, and tragic for the dove, but birds of prey are just cool.

Great photos!