Sunday, July 14, 2013


Male mourning dove and two nestlings. 
Photo by Andrew Atzert. 


It means different things to different creatures.

Take mourning doves. They are monogamous and form strong pair bonds, generally mating for life. They are one of the most family oriented species I know, prolific breeders. In my region, these birds may raise up to six broods in a season. 

But oddly, only two young at a time, so each nestling gets intense parental care.

Both male and female share in incubating and feeding their young called squabs. It's a partnership. The keeping-the-eggs-warm stage lasts 14 to 15 days, two weeks. 

After hatching, young mourning doves are fed regurgitated food by both parents. For the first three to four days the young are fed only crop milk, an energy rich substance that is produced in the crops of both male and female parent. After that, parents begin to add more seeds to the regurgitated food until they are fed only regurgitated seeds by the time the young leave the nest. 

My new book. Coming soon!
Mother doves feed the young most of the time during the first 15 days but after that the fathers take over the responsibility. 

Fledging, flying away from the nest, takes place in about 11–15 days, before the squabs are fully grown but after they are capable of digesting adult food.

But just because they can leave the nest, they are not adults, not yet ready to be left alone.

The young doves stay near the nest site, fed by their father for up to two weeks after fledging. He also teaches them what they need to know: how to remain safe, where to hide, what to be afraid of, where to sleep, where to take a bath, where to find food, how to be brave when all looks dark, etc., all the life skills they will need to be truly independent.

Much of this is true for our species, except the tutorial period—from adolescence to independence—is much longer. Sadly, we live in an age when some fathers think that fatherhood comes with an escape clause. They disappear at the most critical time in a child's life. In today's parlance: wuss out.

Fledgling doves and humans need encouragement and support, the world can be a scary place. Can be. But with proper guidance, it's a world of opportunity. Our future is in their hands.

Brilliance needs to be nurtured; epiphanies applauded.

As a recent text about happiness from the fledgling read: "Ahhhhh, that beautiful moment when you hear the sentence "atp hydrolysis moves the nucleosomes in chromatin remodelling" and you know what it means..."

What it means? An indecipherable text filled with scientific nomenclature means that truly, they are moving on.  

Proud day: Rachael, who just got a 95 on this week's "computational molecular 
evolution exercise." She had to evaluate evolutionary relationships using nucleotide sequences and parsimony.
Me? All I had to do was figure out which shirt to wear. 

1 comment:

Rachael said...