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
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!
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?