Project Chekov: Zenaida Macroura

With a slight tear in my eye I must declare we’ve made it to the end of Project Chekov.  It’s been an incredible ride but time to make the final post and declare victory.  It isn’t often that I’m able to close out a new resolution so early in the year, but as mentioned at the beginning of this project there was a sense of urgency.  This little project literally allowed me to jump about a year ahead in the posting queue which I would never had been able to do at the standard pace.  Admittedly there were a few jumps even further than that due to some unforeseen circumstances but worth it to keep my commitment to the project (I generally hate failing at something unless I’ve given it all I had).  There will probably be a summary post to put a bow on the project, so for now let’s get to the star of the post.

For those in the States, this should be a pretty common bird – the Zenaida Macroura.  You would think that such a common bird would have a more common name .. well it does.  Their non-scientific name is Mourning Dove and to my utter surprise, they are also called Turtle Doves!  That brings a completely new understanding of the 12 Days of Christmas song… okay, maybe not but now at least know what they are referring to.  By the way, from a composition and execution perspective, the shot above is one of my favorites.  Similar to the one below, but the foreground branch is a little more invasive there.  If you are curious, this one was “rainbathing” – Wikipedia claims they can keep this outstretched wing position for up to twenty minutes.

According to our friends over at Wikipedia, these birds are monogamous and form strong pair bonds.  In alignment with that, these birds are usually seen around the feeder in pairs and are often found sitting in a tree next to what I assume is their mate.  They are prolific breeders having up to 6 broods a year with an average of 2 eggs per brood.

Hit the jump to read more interesting facts and view a few more shots of the Mourning Dove!

This productivity turns out to be a necessity because the Mourning Dove is considered the most hunted gamebird with upwards of 20 million blasted out of the sky a year.  Seems like a lot of shot for a small amount of meat but we’ll overlook that.  Our local park (where my outdoor training runs occur) caters to the Dove hunters.  They plant crops of sunflowers that are then harvested into rows for the hunt season.  At this time of the year, the smart ones make their way up the road to the safety of our backyard feeders.

They say these birds are strong flyers able to obtain 55mph.  That may be true, but their fine motor skills need some work.  When they approach the feeders it looks more like controlled chaos compared to the more agile Chickadees and Finches.  Guessing some of that is due to the effort to launch off the nearby branches which makes it difficult to manage the approaching ledge of the feeders.  Once they get the angle figured out they crash land into the tray.  Note,  these Doves and the Cardinals always user the feeder tray over the rods.  They’ll pile into the small tray 3 or 4 at a time and hog the entire feeder until they get their fill of seeds – their nearly exclusive food source.

Sounds like the male Mourning Doves put on quite the courtship display trying to win over the ladies  – shaming us men in the meantime.  They are dedicated parents both taking turns incubating and will even pull out the injured wing trick of the Killdeer to distract predators.  I’ve witnessed the amazing acting job of the Killdeer, but have yet to witness the thespian abilities of the Dove.

For such a hunted bird they actually display zero lack of aggression to our other birds at the feeder.  They do not tend to get spooked by the arrival of other birds and will not outwardly try and scare any other birds off.  Compare that to the Blue Jay that bullies anything in its way and smacks any bird that does not respect its authority – add their nasty habit of preying upon the eggs of other birds and you’d hope we could simply substitute the Dove hunt for Blue Jays!  It is kind of cool to witness when the Doves do get spooked (usually due to seeing me walking around).  They let out their “Coos” and launch out toward the nearest trees – their wings actually make a whistle noise while doing this.

Oh, almost forgot, their young are called Squabs – and yes, if you watch Two and Half Men they were referring to eating young pigeons during Jake’s hilarious “SQUAB” episode.  If nothing else I’ve learned a lot of new things during this project.  New check marks in the bird list and increased bird knowledge  – how cool is that!

So that is a wrap, the last post of Project Chekov – did you figure out the pattern yet?  hint, there were 26 consecutive posts – no more, no less which is a rather interesting number don’t you think? (if you didn’t understand the formula you may not have realized the difficult part of the project).  Now time to sit back  rest the fingers and take a little break!

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