Nov 15, 2008

Mourning Doves Saved From Hurricane Ike

We’ll all remember Hurricane Ike for all of its damage in Northern Kentucky; trees uprooted, split and cracked in half, huge limbs broken, and roofs blown completely off.  But Bob and Mary Terrell of Cold Springs will remember Ike for the lives they saved.


“About 15 to 20 of us were sitting on the porch when the storm hit,” said Mary (Highland Cemetery’s longtime office manager).  “The winds blew a neighbor’s trampoline into a tree and plastic chairs were flying through the air.  Then we saw a dove’s nest we’ve been observing get blown out of our Maple tree.  The nest had three babies only a few days old.  Two babies dropped just below to the ground, while the nest and another baby blew up the street.”


Things did not look good and Bob and Mary were at a loss for what to do.  “The one baby was blown up the sidewalk about 150-feet from the tree and was lying on its side,” said Mary.  “So we just got all three babies and laid them in the yard together.  It was amazing.  The mother stayed with those babies all night long on the ground, keeping them warm and protected.  She never left them.”


By the next morning the baby blown the farthest was already dead and the Terrells wanted to help the two surviving chicks.  “What are we going to do with these babies,” said Bob.  Like any good mother, Mary creatively improvised.  She went inside and got an Easter basket (decorations included) and lined it with leaves.  They put the babies in the Easter basket and securely hung it just below where the nest was. 


Life was good again.  “After they were in the Easter basket both parents continued to feed the babies,” said Mary.  “It was so neat and we had such a good time watching them.  All of the neighbors watched too.  We would always see one of the parents in the basket with the babies.”


Twelve days after the storm the baby doves fledged and left their decorative homestead, though Bob and Mary still see their adopted babies regularly.  “Every night just before dark the whole family flies into the Maple tree to roost,” said Mary.  “We love seeing them again.”


It’s no wonder that the Terrell’s doves lost their nest to the storm, as Mourning Doves make very flimsy nests that frequently succumb to severe weather.  The male chooses the nest site while the female builds the nest.  He gathers twigs, lands on her back and gives her the nest material while she takes it and weaves it into the nest.


Mourning Doves almost always lay just two eggs.  The Terrell’s nest of three was most probably the result of another female laying an extra egg in the nest.  They rarely leave the nest unattended and are very prolific, with up to six clutches per year.  As Bob and Mary can attest, Mourning Doves are very devoted parents.

Incubation lasts about two weeks. The helpless young are called squabs and are fed crop milk for the first few days, which is gradually augmented by seeds.  Two weeks after hatching, the squabs will fledge and be cared for by the father for another two weeks.  By the time the young are only 85 days old, they too will be able to mate and have young of their own.


Mourning Doves eat seeds almost exclusively and are a common sight at our feeders, with a preference for corn, millet, safflower and sunflower.  They are one of the most abundant birds in the U.S., and have the longest breeding season.  They form strong pair bonds and mate for life, though they will find new partners if something happens to a mate. 


They are called Mourning Doves because of their sad and “mournful” call.    Their call, which is often mistaken for an owl’s, sounds like coah cooo cooo coo.  Nineteenth century naturalist John James Audubon saw Mourning Doves as harbingers of spring…”The Dove announces the approach of spring.  Nay, she does more: --she forces us to forget the chilling blasts of winter, by the soft and melancholy sound of her cooing.”


It’s hard telling the effects of Hurricane Ike on wildlife in our area alone.  Fortunately though for the Terrells, they didn’t have to mourn the fate of their doves.  When Mary told 17-year old granddaughter Rachel about rescuing the doves, Rachel replied,

“Mo Maw that’s the neatest story.”


Contact Gayle at her website for nest boxes at or













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