Dove love: A Mother’s Day tribute

By Niki Lewis Shepherd | May 30, 2023

The dove blinks at me from her nest outside my kitchen window. She is all but invisible. I know she is there only because I have learned to look for her in mid-March.

In the tangle of wild honeysuckle and purple leaf winter creeper that covers the fence, she and her mate have hollowed out a bridal bower with arches of leaves and vines forming an opening. This is the fourth year they have returned to this spot.

A few weeks ago, I was privileged to watch them rebuild their nest. They are usually shy and skittery creatures and flutter upward when you come upon them in the yard, but they didn’t seem to mind when I appeared periodically at my sink to watch this fascinating process unfold.

Obviously in love, he gave her little pecks on her head and chest and then flew off to return with a gift. He offered her his twig, and she placed it on the bottom of their soon-to-be nest. This was repeated throughout the morning. More times than not, the twig fell and drifted down to the ground. They might both peer downward, but neither went to retrieve it. She just waited for him to bring another. Sometimes this took a while. In the meantime, a male sparrow flew in to inspect the doves’ fine nest and to steal nesting material.

The doves worked from early morning until noon. Then they disappeared and neglected the nest for the remainder of the day. I found them under the feeding station waiting for me to refill the feeders and scatter seed for them.

After two days of building the bottom structure (approximately eight twigs loosely placed) and a whole day off, they started on the sides of the nest. She sat and waited for him to bring a twig. When he appeared, he made his way though the vines and came in behind her, stood on her back, and dropped the twig over her head so that it landed right beside her beak. She took the twig and placed it where she wanted it. This seemed a helter-skelter process, and she often dropped it. But he faithfully brought the next twig and repeated the stepping-on- her-back-offering procedure as she built. Each time he came, she turned counterclockwise a notch until eventually she made a complete circle.  Periodically, she tramped her feet and swished her body to make a nest shape. Finally, the nest was complete.

Now she sits. I suppose she has eggs because she stares at me and makes me feel guilty if I run the garbage disposal or raise and lower the window shade.

Two days ago, tree trimmers arrived to cut down brush and volunteer trees in the neighbor’s yard directly on the other side of the fence.  Through the noise of chain saws and the scrape of branches on the fence as they carried their cleanup to the curb, she sat.

Today, the wind blows furiously and we’ve had periods of hard, driving rain. But still she sits. After all, Mother Nature is no match for mother love.

Niki Lewis Shepherd is the author of “The Wintering,” a novel set in 1880s Kansas.