My friend Ira (of the baby rabbits) told me a story. She said she had once found a dove chick and tried to raise it. The chick wouldn’t eat though, until she placed the food in her own mouth and offered it to him. Like that, she and her family raised this bird for weeks, until it could eat by itself. Then they taught it to fly by tossing it gently up in the air. When they thought it was strong enough, they released it outside in the forest.
I thought of this story when last week, we found a dove chick in the playground. Of course, kids being kids, this baby had to be saved! We looked in the trees but couldn’t find a nest. The chick was pretty much feathered, but could not fly. We picked him up and wondered what to do with him. He did something funny every time someone’s hand came close to him: he lifted up one or both of his wings, as if to fend off an attacker.
I remembered Ira’s story. It seemed to me that by releasing the dove after raising it at home, they killed the bird just as surely as if they had never adopted it in the first place… How would it know how to find food for itself? How would it know how to escape from predators, find shelter, find mates..? I looked at this chick and thought: if I decide to take care of it, I’m going to have to take care of it for life. I will make it dependent on me. Not to mention, I will have to feed it pigeon food from my own mouth.
I put the chick on the grass and sat at a short distance. The children lost interest at some point and went off to play. I waited. The chick sat hunched up and waited, too. Then suddenly, it raised its head, looked around, got up and walked off. It walked, very purposefully, diagonally across the playground, went through a hole in a fence under a tree and hopped up onto a pile of old netting. Then I noticed two adult doves sitting on the fence, waiting.
This chick was not lost and abandoned at all. Its parents were there all the time, waiting and looking. It had simply tried to fly out of the nest and fallen on the ground. Apparently, this happens a lot. The parents just continue feeding the chick on the ground until it manages to fly off by itself. It had even found a secure, cat-free place for itself in the fenced enclosure. It looked to me that this chick was as fine as it would ever be in nature.
That was a lucky escape of having to feed a dove chick worms out of my mouth 😛
Apart from doves and pigeons, there are many other interesting wild birds around here. I have been told that Israel is a birder’s paradise, because all the migrating birds touch down here. Something that we get a lot over here is the rose-ringed parakeet. There are whole swarms of them around here, talking to each other in whistles, squeeks and screams. I love to see them swooping around in colourful groups, but actually, it’s not so good that there are so many. They are an invasive species – feral descendants of escaped pet parakeets, to be precise.
I have seen their “invasiveness” in action, too. Near the pet zoo, there is a big ficus tree with a hole in the trunk. Last year, there were woodpeckers around. I heard them hammering away, fixing their hole and looking for worms, I suppose. They nested in that tree and I think they hatched out one chick. This spring, they were back, checking out their previous nesting site. But then the parakeets arrived. They also nest in tree hollows, and they chased the woodpeckers away. But strangely enough, the parakeets didn’t stay either, and nobody nested in that tree hollow this year.
(Rose-ringed parakeet versus Syrian woodpecker)
There are other invasive birds. Don’t get me started on the crows! The cats and I have a full-on war against the crows going on. They steal our eggs and have eaten several of our newly hatched ducklings last year. They also eat eggs and chicks of native birds. Crows are clever birds though, and it is kind of entertaining to watch them crack nuts. They drop them from a great height on a hard surface and then crack them open with their beaks. It even works on macademia nuts, the hardest nuts in existence!
A recent invader is the myna bird. I don’t actually know where it came from or how it got here. All I know is that a few years ago, they suddenly showed up, and now they are here. The myna is another extremely clever, omnivorous bird that destroys nests of other, native birds. It’s bad news for nature, even though they are also kind of pretty and interesting to watch. I’m not sure what can be done about these invasive birds. I think I might try looking into making small nesting boxes expecially for little birds. I have to do some research. There are many other beautiful birds here, I’m going to have to make another post one day!
(Myna bird and hoopoe, a native species.)