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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Pigeon Milk

We were musing today about why, when we have so many Mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura), we never see babies.  It led me to look up Mourning Doves in one of my favorite books, Kenn Kaufman's, Lives of North American Birds.


And I learned something I never knew before!
One of my favorite things!

Both the male and the female dove feed their babies
pigeon milk.
That's what I said!  Pigeon Milk!

According to Kenn,
"Birds that are mostly vegetarians as adults often feed their young mostly on insects.  But pigeons and doves have another way to give their young protein: by producing "pigeon milk."  This substance is produced in the crop, an enlarged pocket of the upper esophagus.  During the nesting season, the walls of the crop secrete a milky fluid that is rich in fat and protein.  For the first few days after hatching, the young are fed a pure diet of pigeon milk.  Then they begin to receive a mixture that includes some partially digested seeds or fruit, but their diet continues to include some pigeon milk for at least a couple of weeks.  To be fed, the young bird will insert its bill into the corner of the parent's mouth, and the adult will regurgitate the pigeon milk or the mixture for the young to eat."

There you have it!
Pigeon Milk!



No, I didn't figure out why we don't see babies.
All the other nesting species,
I've counted 12,
bring their babies around!
Maybe they are just so large by the time they fledge,
we don't notice?



I think they are so sweet.




27 comments:

john bord said...

at least the babies don't have to down to the barn and milk mamma.

interesting, never knew that.
get banded doves around here

texwisgirl said...

that's pretty cool. i've seen young fledglings appear this year - they're almost the same size as the parent but have more mottled feathers. very pretty actually.

John said...

Karen,

In all my years in being interested in birds, there is something I never knew. Is the a reason as to why they are called 'Mourning' Doves. John

KaHolly said...

John, They are called mourning doves because of the 'mournful' cooing sound that they make.

Lois Evensen said...

Well, I just learned something new today! Wow.

Kathiesbirds said...

KaHolly, rock pigeons do the same thing! And I bet you are seeing babies, because they look just like the adults with one subtle difference: the juveniles have an all over scaly pattern as their feathers are edged in a ligther shade of gray. I have had an adult and a juvenile hanging around my backyard this week.

KaHolly said...

Kathiesbirds, I'll just have to pay more attention!! Thanks for the info.

Just Ramblin' said...

Once again I learned something new.
Thanks for sharing. Nola

swamp4me said...

Doves are just plain goofy. I love to watch them though ;)

Rambling Woods said...

My friend who recently passed away was a rehabber and she had sent me photos of feeding a young dove with a mixture and it had to go into the crop...amazing stuff...Michelle

Carrie P. said...

No way! that is one of the most interesting things I have read. Thanks for sharing that.

hetty said...

Good to know! Thanks KaHolly!

Kay L. Davies said...

I never knew about pigeon milk, but you're probably right about the fledglings. Last year I saw our pair of mourning doves up on the wires with a slightly-smaller bird, not a whole lot smaller at all.

—Kay, Alberta, Canada

Denise said...

Never knew that before, absolutely fascinating and i enjoyed your photos too.

EG Wow said...

I have never heard of pigeon milk before. Fascinating! We have mourning doves in our yard year round and I have always thought the babies were about the same size as the adults. It never occurred to me to wonder how the babies were being fed. Thank goodness you were curious and looked it up. :)

Sondra said...

Very interesting I never knew that!!

Wren said...

Fascinating, aren't they? I agree with Kathie, even though I couldn't have told you about the feathers. The one time we had a nest in our yard where I could see it, I saw the parent & child in the nest together. The juvenile was nearly the same size, so I imagine they would be hard to tell apart.

Crafty Green Poet said...

I think I've heard of that before! Your mourning doves are beautiful, they look a bit like our collared doves.

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Karen: Your story is so cute with the milk. Love the doves and really enjoy your photos. Crows are another bird that you never see babies.

eileeninmd said...

Great post about the doves. Very interesting info on the pigeon milk.

Living In Williamsburg Virginia said...

Nice photos. We have many of them around our feeders. Never knew about the milk thing; pretty cool.

Darryl and Ruth :)

Julie G. said...

A most wonderful, informative post filled with lovely images! I learned something new today. Thank you! A joy to visit your beautiful blog!

Also, warm gratitude for the kind remarks you left on my blog. I'm very appreciative.

Bob Bushell said...

Well Karen, that is fabulous, feeding their young. I wonder, do they (doves) all feed like this?

John said...

Nice post with nice pictures. I had never heard of pigeon milk! You mat like to know this: A couple springs ago some mourning doves made a nest in one of the potted plants on our front porch, and hatched eggs in it. I would leave for work in the morning and see the babies sitting there, below eye level. We got some good pictures, I will have to post em on my blog or, if possible, send them to you!

Simone de Klerk said...

Amazing!!!
Ever since I found our blog, I have associated birds and their specialties with you!
Have a lovely weekend.

dAwN said...

Thanks for that info..I have never heard of pigeon milk!

Connie said...

Doves are one of my favorite birds, love the cooing sound they make. I didn't know about pigeon milk!
Quilting by the River