A Welcome Mourning

Over the past week, the melancholy song of mourning doves has wafted through our neighborhood.  While mild weather has finally enveloped mid Missouri in the last few days, the singing began well before the latest outbreak of Arctic air departed the region; indeed, these doves are responding to the prolonged daylight, not the warmer temperatures.

Among the earliest birds to nest in the American Heartland, mourning doves will fledge their first brood by mid spring and will produce at least one more clutch of eggs before the summer ends.  Their mellow tune, always welcome after a long, cold winter, will be heard throughout the warmer months but the doves generally fall silent by early autumn.  Permanent residents in Missouri, these sociable birds usually gather in large flocks from late summer through winter, roaming fields and farmlands to feast on seeds and waste grain.

Though most nest in trees, some mourning doves use the ledges or sills of houses and barns.  Once fledged, the patient youngsters often huddle together on tree limbs, awaiting handouts from their calm but diligent parents; throughout the year, adults are easily drawn to backyard feeders, where they search the ground for fallen seed.  While these mellow doves are welcome visitors in all seasons, it is their mournful song in late winter, carrying the promise of spring, that most endears them to humans.