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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Mourning Doves used to be called Turtle Doves

Mourning Dove
Back in 1731, when the Mourning Dove was first described in North America, it was called the "Turtle of Carolina". A decade or so later its name morphed into "Turtle Dove". But the real Turtle Dove is found only in Europe. Today our bird is called the Mourning Dove, after its incredibly memorable, mournful song.

Europe's Turtle Doves were commonly known as "turtur" which imitates the birds' call. Around 1500, the final "R" was replaced by an "L", making the often-translated biblical phrase "...the voice of the turtle is heard in our land" make a tiny bit of sense.

The Mourning Dove is a very common bird - with over 400-million of them in North America. Which is a good thing, odds wise; about 70% of young doves die in the first year. But they adapt well to a human-directed environment, unlike its Passenger Pigeon cousin which was once touted as the most abundant bird in the world (but is now extinct).

You can attract Mourning Doves to your yard, but keep in mind that you might attract other kinds of doves too. They tolerate birdfeeders, but prefer to pick through seed scattered on the ground. (Better footing!) Doves have a tough time with ordinary tube feeders, where the relativelty short perches don't accomodate relatively large birds. Also, make sure you have several large shrubs around, so they can nest undisturbed. In warm weather birdbaths are also a big draw.
“Hey skunk;  here I am!”      I know it’s counter intuitive, but if you come upon a skunk (within about 20 feet), make some noise as you slowly step out of the way. Just whistle or hum or recite a nursery rhyme - it makes no difference.  Reason?  Skunks have terrible eyesight. Whatever’s beyond 3 feet is just a hazy blur to them. And if it’s surprised by something it can’t see well, it sprays. So let it know you’re there.


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