Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency Year Five:
Case File No. 50-258
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Where We Left Off:
Gus captured and killed two volepyres in one swift patrol. He keeps looking for more because we don’t know what their population size is.
When Doves Cry:
We’re at the time of mating and dating. At the Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency, we spotted our first signs of fertility at the end of March. The mourning doves (Zenaida macroura), who mate for life, added a fresh layer to the old nest at the top of the metal staircase in the junkyard. It’s a pretty good choice to roost. The top landing has a wooden step added to it so there are three solid walls. A predator only has one way in.
The original nest was built in the summer of 2020. I read that some nests are reused and sometimes not even by the original species of bird. Other nests are outright stolen. My heart warmed to see the mating doves return specifically to their old nest, do a little property renovation, and then lay two eggs.
An American fairy tale would end here with a happy ending and the birds dancing in the air with a pretty ribbon between them. Alas, this is not an American style fairy tale. More like a Brothers Grimm.
Gus knew something had changed at the top of the staircase. Now, before anyone blames Gus for his behavior, bear in mind that he goes up there often and enjoys resting at the top where he can get a different vantage point of the Bunny Hollow trail, the boulder, the bird feeding tree, and of course the rest of the cluttered junkyard. His Super Smeller commanded him to check out what was different at the top landing. There was a familiar scent in the air that he detected the moment he entered the junkyard.
By now, you know that The Grumpy Old Man hates many of the burrowers like groundhogs, mice, voles, and moles. Well, The Cook absolutely hates mourning doves and believes they are a bad omen. She hates their sounds and their entire presence on the property. At most, we have two mating pairs but normally, Gus, Oliver, and I only see one or two doves at a time. Most backyard birders find the mating call of these doves to be calming, but not The Cook.
I’m not sure if mourning dove would taste different than farmed squab, but I would not be surprised if they were once used in pot pies. Once you remove the bird shot, one dove yields less meat than a chicken nugget; although according the internet, they are tasty. If I recall, the only dove type bird I ever ate before becoming vegetarian was a hardboiled egg of pigeon at a fancy schmancy restaurant.
Mourning doves prefer to eat seeds in a flat style like off the ground rather than from a contained or hardened brick of seeds like our cage feeder. These birds have a secret area inside their bodies for storing meals to eat later.
“Scientists once found a record-holding bird with 17,200 bluegrass seeds stuffed away in its crop.”
Dunn, T. (2021, August 25). 13 Fascinating Facts About Mourning Doves. Birds and Blooms. https://www.birdsandblooms.com/birding/attracting-birds/10-surprising-facts-about-mourning-doves/
You learn something new every day. I did not realize that mourning doves are the same as turtle doves from the famous Christmas countdown song.
Gus was certainly not in need of a meal when he scaled the staircase to the roost three days in a row. If game hunters find these birds tasty, I’m not surprised Gus would. Although of the two birds he has ever killed – or any of the wild creatures for that matter – he’s only been caught eating insects. He is a weirdo. My beloved weirdo. So, when his senses overtook his sensibilities and he wanted to clasp one of the eggs in his jaws, I wasn’t surprised; but, I did stop him in time to leave the egg in tact.
The eggs would have only needed two weeks of care by their parents before hatching. Then the parents share in responsibilities of feeding them. Unfortunately for Zen and Mac (the names I’ve decided to give the pair), someone besides Gus had an interest in those eggs. On the third day, Gus went up to the nest and I followed to stop him from snatching them or hurting them. The eggs were missing! We had a new mystery to solve.
It seems cats are considered the most common predator of mourning doves, but I got to say, I’m not buying it. There are so many creatures out there who want food. I made a post on Instagram to see what some of my local friends had to say about it. I thought a fox would find it easy to climb the stairs and have a protein-filled midnight snack. Michele was the first to posit that a raccoon would be likely. Martha, who keeps corgis and chickens, agreed that a raccoon would find eggs irresistible. I hadn’t thought of raccoons. I did consider opossums though. We definitely have both here though they are rarely seen.
The last time I saw an actual raccoon (alive) was way back when Little King Meth House used to live across the street in 2019. He would come home early in the morning. I shit you not, he could climb up the side of the building like Spider-Man. I guess he found it easier to get to the roof from the exterior of the building rather than navigate all the busted, broken walls and crap inside the building which is used for fire department training. Gods, I wish they would just stick with the academy scenarios and not do this shit across from my windows.
Gus and I searched all around the ground at the bottom of the staircase roost. We didn’t find any eggshell remnants nor any other evidence. No footprints. No clues whatsoever!
That roost is within the territory of The Blue Jay Gang and Chipcent Donofrio’s criminal organization. The chipmunks could have an interest in the eggs, but blue jays? Hell yes they would. The jays were immediately added to the suspect list. They aren’t the only birds who would go after smaller birds’ eggs: crows, grackles, and starlings would. Snakes notoriously love eggs too! The roost happens to be next to Garter Snake Ridge which divides the junkyard from Bunny Hollow. We occasionally see snakes of size who could swallow eggs whole. Mostly, we see very small snakes. The Grumpy Old Man is the one human who spots the larger ones. Rat snakes will go after chicken eggs like me in a bagel shop.
Snakes will eat eggs whole, so they leave no trace. Many of the other animals on the lists above will carry the eggs off so you may not find any evidence of an eaten egg. A hatched bird egg will have the top completely missing and it will be fairly obvious the opening was big enough for the baby bird to get out. An egg that was killed will usually just have a large hole poked in it done just to kill them. Many times aggressive and territorial birds will do this, such as starlings.
J. (2019, October 24). Backyard Bird Egg Thieves – Look Out for These Unsavory Sneaks. Bird Feeder Hub. https://birdfeederhub.com/backyard-bird-egg-thieves/
With no physical evidence to go on, our suspect list remains open. The Blue Jay Gang and unknown raccoon remain at the top of the list.
Case Status: Open