Mourning Dove Pencil Sketch p71

Mourning Dove Pencil Sketch

Mourning Dove Pencil Sketch

For some reason it took me a long time to get around to sketching a Mourning Dove. I really love these birds. You seem to find them everywhere, and everyone seems familiar with their plaintive “coo” call. When I was a kid their call served as the background sound on many a trip walking to the top of the hill to catch the bus to school. It was often accompanied by—or drowned out by—the sound of gale-force winds tearing through you on frigid winter mornings in western New York.

Some of my other early Mourning Dove memories are from grade school. No, we didn’t have a birding class. I went to to a small, Catholic school in a quiet, residential neighborhood. It was a two-story brick building. Once you advanced to 4th grade you moved to the second floor. I didn’t see the benefit of this until I hit 5th grade. You see, grades 5-8 all faced east, which was great because it put you at eye level with the trees, and you could see a lot of good activity from there.

During class I’d often get caught looking out the windows at birds and squirrels on the telephone wires near St. John’s. The Mourning Doves would land on a wire, which then sympathetically vibrated, throwing their bodies in a perfect circle of ever decreasing size. The whole time their bodies were being flung around in an ever tightening spiral, their tiny little dove heads stayed perfectly motionless. AMAZING! Additional doves coming in to land got all the bodies moving with the heads completely still. WOW, this is great! Funny to watch, a study of applied physics, social interactions, community ecology… all totally unappreciated by my teachers. “Matty… Matty… Matty… Matthew Bohan!!! Stop looking out that window! COME BACK TO REALITY! We are diagramming sentences. In the sentence ‘Matthew is terribly distracted,’ what is the predicate?”

When doves weren’t on the wire, Gray Squirrels also put on a great show out there, and when the animal activity slowed down completely, you could have a great day dream looking out those windows. You know, windows do that. It’s much harder to have a daydream staring at a blackboard. If you are practiced, you can still do it, but it requires more effort. Give me a window and my mind can go just about anywhere. I’ve always been a pro at day dreaming.

We usually have Mourning Doves nest in at least one of our spruce trees. In general they seem to have pretty low nest success. Their minimum-effort, loose nest of sticks seems almost like an afterthought but obviously does the job most of the time, because there are still plenty of doves around.

They seem to be very agreeable birds. I seldom see them nipping and bullying other birds at the feeder. On top of that, they are beautiful… very well designed. When they glide their pointy wings  occasionally throw me off, especially against a white sky, leading to some bad IDs when birding. They can look a falcon-ish at times. I had a birding friend in New Jersey who jokingly called them “Lesser Gyrfalcons” when they’d thrown off an ID, causing him to think it was a American Kestrel or Merlin for a second or two.

Sadly, the Mourning Dove is the most hunted North American species. Their steady, straight flight makes them easy targets for beginners. Apparently, most hunters don’t even retrieve the body after shooting a dove. It’s just for the thrill or challenge of killing one. Some things I’ll never understand.


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