I took this video on a rainy day last summer. I had seen two mourning doves on my deck and several times, they seemed to “cuddle up,” with one placing a wing over the other. I did manage to get a 19-second video of the behavior. I’m no birder, but I thought I knew what was going on: I figured the wing-lifting dove was a parent to the other and was actually shielding the younger one from rain.
Christen Goguen and I put these tender titles on the film accordingly.
But I’ve always wondered if my theory would hold with real birders. Well, the results are mostly against me. The kind response from Wayne R. Petersen, Director of Massachusetts Important Bird Area (IBA) Program Mass Audubon, made me laugh at myself:
“I’m not sure what’s going on with the Mourning Doves. I will say, however, that I’m not sure that the rain necessarily has anything to do with the behavior. Unfortunately the video clip is sufficiently distant that I can’t be certain of the age of the dove being shielded, but if it’s a juvenile, then it could conceivably be an effort on the part of the other dove to brood it; however, given the size of the bird I hardly think that’s what’s going on.”
It gets worse:
“Mourning Doves regularly will raise one wing toward another, especially in an aggressive situation like under a bird feeder. Don Stokes refers to this behavior as ‘wing-raising,’ where one dove ‘raises one or both wings and may even hit another bird with its wing.’ ‘This usually occurs in aggressive encounters on the ground around feeders. Mourning Doves may also do this to other bird species and to small mammals such as squirrels.’ I’m afraid I can’t do any better than this. Sorry I can’t be more definitive.”
Two other heavy hitters from the bird world have weighed in. One actually agrees with me! And the other, of course, with Wayne.
Viewers, please tell us what YOU think. Would love to hear more opinions on this puzzling little video.