Every morning a pair of mourning doves visits the garden at the edge of the woods behind my house. Since they are ground feeders, they like to pick at the birdseed that has been thrown onto the ground by both other birds and the squirrels that love the feeder attached to the tree. In the spring I can hear their lament as they begin their courting time. There is something soothing about the coo breaking into the silence of the cool early air. After selecting a mate, the male is bound for life to the female. He is the more striking in color of the two, as is common in the bird species. Both are gray-brown with long tail feathers tipped in a little white and black. The male has pale pink chest feathers and a bluish crown. She is plain gray-brown. They have plump bodies and small heads. They are both overwhelmingly beautiful, magical to watch.
Mourning doves build rather basic nests and take turns sitting on the eggs. The male takes the day shift and the female takes the night shift. They have set in motion their lifestyle of mating, claiming their territory, nesting, and raising their young.
As I watch them, I wonder about many things. Are they happy with their choice of mate? When the male is not on duty, is he off checking out the plumage of females other than his mate? Is he tempted to stray? Does the female sit there wondering if her mate will be late for his shift? Does she get angry is he doesn’t sit just right when it is his time to protect the eggs? Does she wonder if he loves her? Is that mournful cry a sadness that they will spend their entire lives together having to accept each other’s flaws or is it a love song, a song of commitment, a song of acceptance and devotion?
I like the mourning doves. I like that they mate for life. I like their mournful cry. I suspect there is much to learn from them.
Image: Liz Noffsinger / FreeDigitalPhotos.net