The Parable of the Doves

A loud flapping of wings.  I looked out my window in time to see a mourning dove land on the roof opposite with audible bump.  The poor thing sat there, looking stunned.  Then another flapping of wings.  Another dove flew over the gutter onto the higher roof.  It was then that it dawned on me that these two were being pushed out of the nest.  I’ll admit that I doubted the wisdom of a dove building a nest in the neighbor’s gutters, especially when the tropical storm dumped several inches of rain on us last week.  Sometimes animals know what they’re doing, however, and even after the storm I could see the mother dove winking at me, her head just above the level of her aluminum-sided home.

The stunned youngster sat there for quite some time.  As soon as Mom was gone, the one that had flapped above climbed back into nest.  Was I watching a parable unfold?  Mom flew back when chick number two decided to flap down and join its sibling.  Throughout the morning I watched as the mother returned, landed in sight of her offspring, then showed them how to get down to the ground.  Ensuring they were watching, she waddled to the edge, dropped, and spread her wings.  She did this several times as the young birds kept carefully away from the edge.  Mom, it seemed to me, was growing impatient.  She’d occasionally fly back to peck them, but the siblings simply wouldn’t take the leap.  She started coming back to feed them instead.  I wondered how she managed with two beaks jammed into her own at the same time.

I kept an eye on the drama the entire day.  By the time I turned in for the night, the two youngsters were bedded down next to each other on the roof.  Their mother had landed, cooed insistently to them, but they dutifully ignored her, afraid of falling.  We look at birds and think they’re built to fly.  It’s one of their greatest assets.  It is the kind of gift, however, that requires overcoming obstacles.  Just because you can fly doesn’t mean that you’re not afraid to fall.  There’s learning involved.  Such episodes of animal intelligence always inspire me.  We could learn so much if only we would take the time to see how birds learn to fly.  The transition from coddled nesting to the freedom of the skies is not easy, and being built to fly still requires overcoming a very natural fear.

4 thoughts on “The Parable of the Doves

  1. Hi Steve,

    Getting down from the roof of a house is a piece of cake, try getting your chicks off a 17th story balcony, down to either the building next door, where the pigeons roost most days, or even farther down to the ground ! We had a pair of pigeons a few cycles ago who built a nest on our balcony. That was a really dirty experience. As they grew they got noisier and noisier. Then one day it was time to fly, not sure where they got their balls of steel, but eventually they made it off the balcony. Thank God they never returned for another round, yet … Let Us Pray !!

    Jeremy

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  2. Hi Steve,
    The birds we observe are herring gulls. The couple closer to our window nests on a chimney. This year they were “blessed” with 3 chicks. That must have required heavy logistics to feed them all. When the chicks grow they get down from the chimney and live on the roof. Once they get as big as the adults, they take a special pose (making themselves as small as possible to pretend they are still chicks) and whistle pitifully to ask for food. Adults try to watch over them from a distance and perch as high as they can (on the chimney) to stop being pestered. And that’s why the young get very motivated to fly. They flap and flap and fly for very short periods, because they want to get to the chimney to beg for food. I’m not sure the adults are enthused when they get good enough to get up there, then to follow them everywhere whistling… That’s part of being a parent I guess.

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    • Hi Sophie,
      Thanks for sharing that. I was able to watch the doves for three days in total (then the weekend came and I didn’t spend any time at my desk). They never did fly off the roof in those days but they did keep begging for food and the mother came back less and less frequently. By the time I was back in my office they were nowhere to be seen so they must’ve learned while I wasn’t looking!

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