Doves by the dozen

A little bit of snow and cold weather always means an increase in bird activity at the feeders. Even though our latest snow totaled less than half an inch, the birds mobbed the feeders.

In winters past, we always had a stray dove or two stay with us for the winter, but for some reason, this winter we have a flock of 20 or so birds.

Mourning doves may visit the feeder anytime during the day (they are primarily seed eaters), but they are most concentrated in the first couple of hours after sunrise. Throughout the day, the flock forages in the woods and fields around the house. They are extremely jittery, taking flight at the slightest noise or movement (no doubt because they are sometimes hunted). They are extremely fast flyers, having been clocked at 55 miles per hour, so they are rarely killed by hawks.

The numbers of all of the birds can change from year to year, depending on the success of the previous breeding season and the availability of food. This year, we have a lot of doves, but fewer juncos, blue jays, and gold finches. Each year is different; last year we had a large mob of boisterous blue jays that tended to monopolize the feeders. I don’t really miss them.