Every morning since spring, Herbert and Frances rifle through the grass of the front yard. These mourning doves are usually accompanied by one squirrel in particular, Chuck. Today, Chuck was not around. Curious about whether or not he had another social engagement, I began to wonder about documented social relationships among these critters.
Acccording to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mourning_Dove, the doves are likely a mated pair (BFFs that forage for seeds more than they would insects, surprisingly), but nothing was really said about the relationship between the birds. Most other sites said the birds mate for life, but one claimed their relationships last seven to ten years. Interestingly, the birds will find a new mate if they lose their current love to death. I don’t suppose divorce is an option, but then these birds shun relationships outside their pairing, thus likely removing the temptation to get it on with a nesting neighbor.
But what about Herbert and Francie’s relationship with Chuck? Is this some kind of bizarre animal kingdom threesome? Squirrels are usually considered a threat to birds’ nests, and unlike doves, they don’t bond with a pair, but have multiple complex social relationships. Maybe, in this magical neighborhood, Chuck extended his usual network to include Herbert and Francie due certain commonalities. In fact, recently we did see an incredulous episode among birds, one unfortunate squirrel, and a local hawk. The birds did their best to chase off the hawk, who ignored them completely from his roost on a phone pole. The beast then shocked everyone by dipping suddenly in flight, picking a squirrel off my back fence, and returning to his roost with the fresh entree to dine. The birds never stopped harassing this predatory intruder. Maybe, they even sent the late squirrel’s family some flowers. You just never know around here.
There are anomalies in every group of wildlife everywhere-- things we cannot explain. I have been quite amused by Chuck’s foraging alongside Herbert and Frances this year, and I am hoping desperately that Chuck did not become a meal for the hawk, as this is not my first sighting of such a thing here. The doves, however, did not seem to be fretting too terribly over the absence of their fluffy tailed friend.
By the way, I did come across this wonderfully amusing article about what squirrels think of human behavior. You should visit here to read http://www.rawreform.com/content/view/344/127/.
Noted sites in the quest for dove behavior are below, just in case you were curious: