Nature “did-you-knows?” ~ MOURNING DOVES edition


The kids and I have been delighted that some birds have FINALLY discovered the feeder we put up a few months ago.  Over the weekend, Boo and I watched a pair of Goldfinches have a feast, and yesterday we all watched this beautiful guy (or gal) have lunch while we were enjoying ours.  He fed for so long and then just sat there on the deck railing as if he was too stuffed to even take flight.  The kids got such a kick out of it.


It rained and rained all day yesterday, making our end of the school year trip to a local amusement park impossible.  Needless to say, the girls were very disappointed so it was nice to have a fun distraction over what was supposed to be our picnic lunch in the sun!  Finally, after supper, the kids needed to get out of the house and stretch their legs.  They didn’t want to, but we knew they needed to!  So we all took the dog for a walk in the rain. On our way around the block, we noticed a pair of mourning doves sitting on the wires overhead and wondered if one of them might have been the one dining on our deck earlier that day.  There are lots in our neighborhood.  Even as I type this, I can hear one cooing outside somewhere this morning.

I have seen mourning doves and heard their lamenting coos my whole life, but never bothered to learn anything about the creatures.  For example, did you know…

  • …that mourning doves swallow little bits of gravel to aid in their digestion?
  • …that mourning doves are the top bird targeted by sportsmen in the U.S. with up to 20 million of them killed each year? (I had to reassure my girls that we would not be joining in the hunt!)

Even the ornithology course I took in university (that I enjoyed immensely) can’t compare to the pleasure it’s been to learn about birds with my kids this year.  It has been so much more than just interesting facts and transfer of information; it has been a delight!  It has felt like we are truly making friends with these amazing creatures.  We have been reading a chapter each week from the Thronton Burgess Bird Book.  What an entertaining introduction to ornithology for children!  Of course, yesterday we had to read the chapter on Mourner the Dove, after watching one for so long on our deck.  Each week I search for and print out some sort of picture or colouring page for the species in that week’s chapter, and the girls colour it in and add it to their bird notebook.  They have quite a collection at this point.    Many of the ones we’ve read about we haven’t had the pleasure of observing firsthand yet, but some of the very common birds we have seen in person over the course of the year are:

  • Bluejays
  • Crows
  • Sparrows
  • Starlings
  • Great blue herons
  • Bald eagles
  • Hawks
  • Robins
  • Mourning doves
  • Seagulls
  • Goldfinches
  • Chickadees
  • Hummingbirds
  • Canada geese
  • Mallard ducks

I’m sure there are others I can’t recall at the moment, but as you can see, nothing too exotic!  We do live in the suburbs afterall!  I have to say though that I would not have been able to identify a list half this size at age 6 or 7 so I’m pretty impressed with what my girls have been learning.  They are far more interested in birds and animals and nature in general than I was at their age, and that’s really what I’m after anyway…to instill a love of learning and forming relationships with the world around them.

C-Bear just came out of her room and is currently enthralled with watching a fox in our neighbour’s driveway.  She is giving me a running commentary on his movements as I type.  I’m reminded of something William Long wrote about observing the “Wood Folk”.  He suggests “that perhaps the real reason why we see so little in the woods is the way we go through them…Only as you copy their ways can you expect to share their life and their secrets….be quiet, friendly, peace-possessed…Sit down quietly in the woods anywhere…Control your curiosity, and soon their curiosity gets beyond control; they must come to find out who you are and what you are doing. Then you have the advantage; for, while their curiosity is being satisfied, they forget fear and show you many curious bits of their life that you will never discover otherwise.”  I hope my children will continue in their love of observing their “friends” in nature and that the stillness and quiet required will be useful habits in many other areas of their lives as well!  “Quiet, friendly, peace-possessed” – I like that!  I like that a lot!

quotations from “Secrets of the Woods” by William J. Long

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