24 August 2011 – I killed a Mourning Dove

Ugh.  This wouldn’t be much of a headline for sporting types as dove season is about to kick off, but there’s a bit of sad irony here in my case.

During the unprecedented heat of the summer of 2011 in Oklahoma, I have diligently turned on the water mister in my garden hoses each evening to provide some welcome relief for all my backyard birds and soften the ground for species like robins and mockingbirds. Yesterday, as I approached one of those hoses in anticipation of setting up the mister, I flushed a Mourning Dove from the grass that flew about 20′ directly into the relatively small and screened window of my bedroom.  It didn’t sound like a killing blow and the bird flew off apparently unharmed.  Just a minute or two later, however, I found the poor bird writhing on the ground, where it quickly expired.

A quandary, this. Have my efforts to keep my backyard a little moister than the rest of Stillwater actually saved any birds this summer?  I know now that those efforts led to the death of at least one.  It’s the same with feeding birds in winter. I usually have at least one junco each winter meet its end at one of my windows, but those juncos wouldn’t be hanging around in the first place were it not for the abundant seed I put out for them.  If that seed wasn’t there, would those juncos be spending the winter in some field or woodland instead where the probability of hitting a window would be nil? I know that my bird feeding operation leads to the death of several birds each year at the the talons of our local Cooper’s Hawks, but I just consider that I’m feeding them too.  The occasional window collisions seem a bit more . . . pointless.

When it comes to wildlife management – and make no mistake, attracting birds to our backyards is wildlife management – there are consequences to every action.  The loss of one Mourning Dove is ecologically meaningless in the grand scheme of ecosystem function in suburban Stillwater, except that it was enough to make me think.  I doubt I’ll change much about my bird feeding operation or my decision to make water available, but I might be a bit more careful from now on as I walk through my yard, and maybe I’ll walk closer to the house to flush any birds that might be hidden from my view away from my windows.  Just something to think about.

3 thoughts on “24 August 2011 – I killed a Mourning Dove

  1. These are the questions in life – is the overall good outweighing the overall bad? It sounds like you’re doing quite the service for the critters in your yard as far as watering goes. We don’t actually ever feed anything other than orioles and hummingbirds, enough other neighbors put out deer corn and bird seed that we’d end up with a super saturation of collared doves… but so long as you’re not spreading the conjunctivitis with dirty feeders, nor feeding your yard birds to cats… I say carry on, with as much prevention as possible.

  2. Good riddance. All those damned doves do is crap everywhere and become a nuisance. They’re like pigeons–useless.

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