Thursday, April 03, 2008

Nest watching from my kitchen window: The end of the road

UPDATED 4-12-08!

Earlier in March, a pair of pigeons who hang out in my backyard began building a nest on top of my outdoor aviary. They built it on an angled roof, though, and it was sliding off. I moved it to the top of an old dresser I have sitting outside my kitchen window (the dresser is coverered in heavy plastic, awaiting refinishing). I didn't think they would come back to the nest, since it was right by the sliding glass door (which gets opened and closed a bazillion times a day for my dogs) and next to my kitchen window.

Then, on the 28th, I saw one of the pigeons sitting on the nest! All I have to do is look through my kitchen window to see the nest. Below are a few pictures I've taken so far.

Girl Rusty, a red color morph, sits on the nest during the daytime, with Boy Blue (a "checker" color morph?) usually sitting on the block wall nearby, on the roof of the house, or watching from the grass while foraging.

Now, normally the female incubates the eggs at night. However, Boy Blue takes the overnight shift on this nest. I know that Blue is male because I have seen his mating displays, and watched him bring sticks to Girl Rusty with which to build the nest -- and they built a really good nest, which is kind of unsual for a member of the dove family (yes, Pigeons are doves -- Rock Doves, to be exact)!

Rusty has no problem with me being out in the yard, or on the porch taking care of my outdoor birds. Blue, on the other hand, is afraid of his own shadow, and will take off if I look at him for too long or if he thinks I'm getting too close to the nest -- which is hard not to do, since it's right next to the patio door (I have a chunk of split firewood next to the nest as a way to 'enclose' the nest area). Blue has started to return to the nest while I'm still out there, though, which I take as a sign that he is getting used to me. Plus, I make sure to look at him through the window and do things at the kitchen sink so he gets used to me being busy around him.

Now, I don't feed the pigeons in my neighborhood, and only these two pigeons actually 'hang out' on my porch for any length of time. I do not intend to make these two tame, or to tame the chick(s) if any hatch. I just enjoy watching the process unfolding before my very eyes!

There are those out there who think that pigeons are vermin, "flying rats", pests...but really, they are amazing creatures. They are highly adaptable: normally, they nest on rock ledges (hence "Rock Dove"), but the urban landscape provides them a multitude of surfaces on which to nest. Humans provide all kinds of food for them, as well, even when they don't intend to do so.

Pigeons are also astounding navigators! They are able to find their way home when released from an unfamiliar site, even when blindfolded on the trip there ("homing pigeons" are the best example of this). They are known to recognize and use physical landmarks such as roads and buildings to make their way to their roost. Recent studies have also shown that some pigeons can count, and even remember as many as a thousand images and which feeder they are connected to!

Incubation of the one to two eggs is approximately 18 days, and the chicks remain in the nest for another 25 to 30 days after that. I hope to be able to bring you pictures of at least one chick hatching in this nest! Enjoy the pictures I have so far:

~*~Girl Rusty on nest ~*~


~*~Boy Blue on watch~*~


~*~The First Egg~*~


~*~The Second Egg~*~


UPDATE: 4-6-2008

~*~Boy Blue on Nest 4-6-08~*~

I candled the eggs today (meaning I put a flashlight behind it to shine the light through the egg) and to my great surprise, there is a network of veins -- a sure sign that the eggs were indeed fertilized! The first egg should hatch about April 17th, the second egg about April 19th.

~*~First Egg: Veining 4-6-08~*~

The darker spot to the upper left of center is where the heart is. You see my thumb and forefinger on the edges. Clearly more veining in this egg than the second, see picture below.

~*~Second Egg: Veining 4-6-08~*~

The darker spot is, again, the heart. YES -- you can actually see it beating! It is the most amazing thing to see!

UPDATE: 4-7-2008

I let the dogs out late last night and scared the holy bejeebers out of Boy Blue. He shot straight up in the air and bounced himself off the ceiling of the patio cover, then flew away. I don't think he ever came back, because a little while ago, I let the dogs out again -- the nest is empty and the eggs are cold.

The eggs need to remain at a constant temperature, and be turned several times a day to prevent the embryo from "sticking" to the inside of the shell. I don't know if the eggs getting cold will end the development of the embryos inside or not, but I have serious doubts that the embryos will continue to develop. I really, really hope that Girl Rusty returns for her day shift, and that the eggs will be okay.

I do not have an incubator to put the eggs in, I can't afford to buy one, and in truth, I should let them be; native species or not, they are wild animals and I should let the natural process do what it will. As a wild bird rehabilitator, it is my duty to not interfere unless absolutely necessary, such as a bird that has been affected by some sort of human interference (hit by car, poisoned, nest site in danger, etc.).

Oh, but it is so hard not to, especially when they are right there....


Boy Blue finally came back! He sat on the nest until about 11 am, then Girl Rusty came for her day shift -- quite a bit later than her normal time.

Before the changing of the guard though, I happened to catch Boy Blue flying to the fence to greet Girl Rusty and "kiss" her hello (actually, feeding each other is part of the mating & bonding process). Then he went back to sitting on the eggs while she went who knows where!

I'm so glad to see that they are still determined to hatch those eggs. 10 days or so from now should be the first hatch!

UPDATE: 4-8-2008 -- Other birdy happenings in my yard

My Diamond doves have decided to nest! I have one male and two females. The male is Nemo, so named because he was born without the lower part of his left wing. The females are Barbara (as in Barbara Streisand -- who did a duet with Neil Diamond; Neil was Nemo's original name until I discovered his birth defect) and Yellow Rose (so named because she has yellow leg band and is more delicate than Barbara, who has a green leg band).

I have a nest box which is actually for other types of birds, but no one uses it; there was a shallow nest in another corner in which one of the females laid her two eggs, but it was in a high traffic area, so I moved the eggs to the nest box, and propped the top open. The Diamond doves decided that this was ok, and the other female has laid an egg too (doves lay one or two eggs only; there may be a fourth egg since both females are using the nest).

So here is a picture of Nemo on the nest, the eggs in the nest, and the eggs in my hand for size comparison:

~*~ Nemo on Nest ~*~


~*~ Three Eggs in Nest ~*~

~*~ Three Eggs in My Hand ~*~


The eggs are about one inch long from point to point, and about one inch in diameter at the widest point. My index finger is about 2.5" long.


A group of pigeons decided to hang out in my yard today, and I was able to take a few pictures of the beautiful iridescent feathers on the neck of a banded male, and the pattern on the wing of a checkered male.

Note the chair legs in the third picture; that's Joey's (my male Italian Greyhound) chair -- he loves to lay in the chair! It's pretty funny :)

UPDATE: 4-9-2008

I happened to catch Blue away from the nest greeting Rusty, so I took the opportunity to check the eggs again. To my great relief, they are still developing! In fact, I could see and feel the embryos moving around inside, and could see where the eyespot is developing! It was the most amazing thing!!!!

So, the eggs are still on track for the approximate hatch date of 4-17/18 and 4-19/20...

UPDATE: 4-11-08

I have not seen Rusty even near the nest for at least a day. Perhaps something happened to Rusty?

The eggs got cold again last night, but I saw Blue on the nest this morning; however, he's acting very strangely, more off than nest than on. Every time I open the back door, or move around at the kitchen sink, Blue takes off. What happened to spook him so badly? He was finally getting to a point where I could mess around on the porch and he wouldn't fly away....

Dare I check the eggs again for movement? I have already resigned myself to whatever fate Nature has in store for them, but still....


The Diamond dove eggs are not fertilized, which actually is not surprising to me. Nemo sure pesters the girls, but I have yet to see any actual mating.

UPDATE: 4-12-08

The End of the Road

Neither Rusty nor Blue has returned to the nest, and the eggs are cold. I candled them and discovered, as I suspected, that the embryos were no longer moving. Also, the eggs had not been turned in some time, so the contents had settled and adhered to the shell. It's difficult to verbalize my feelings at this point.

I removed the eggs from the nest permanently; it seems odd to look at the empty nest through my kitchen window.