The Poets’ Birds: The Hidden Ones

Mourning dove (Zenaida macroura)

Solitary, quiet, the dove lingers: perhaps one of the pair that tended their nest in a nearby palm, or perhaps even their youngster, satisfied with the neighborhood and unwilling to leave.

Mornings, it comes for water. Evenings, as pigeons roost in a flurry of wings and the sun lowers toward the horizon, it reappears on my railing, content to bask in the evening’s glow until darkness compels it home.

Like so many hidden ones of the world, it has a silent word to speak: a word Wendell Berry has heard, and commends to us.


The gods are less for their love of praise.
Above and below them all is a spirit that needs nothing
but its own wholeness, its health and ours.
It has made all things by dividing itself.
It will be whole again.
To its joy we come together —
the seer and the seen, the eater and the eaten,
the lover and the loved.
In our joining it knows itself. It is with us then,
not as the gods whose names crest in unearthly fire,
but as a little bird hidden in the leaves
who sings quietly and waits, and sings.
                                                                “The Hidden Singer” ~ Wendell Berry


Comments always are welcome.


147 thoughts on “The Poets’ Birds: The Hidden Ones

    1. Even the commonest bird has something to offer. I’ve grown quite fond of this one, and I’m happy to have this photo to remember it by, should it decide to fly off to a different home.

  1. The dove is one of my favorite birds and you pic here is so interesting. The dove can be great entertainment and you are so blessed to have one roost on your balcony.

    I remember them from my days on the farm and now I see them almost every day- if I am diligent and watch for them coming to the birdbath. Usually I see two at a time. Each one patiently waits his or her turn to take a bath. There is something about the dove that makes me smile.

    1. I’ve had a nesting pair every year, and then their offspring. Once, I was around the night the parents left their babe alone on the railing at night for the first time. The photos I got aren’t so good, because they were taken through a window and screen, but the last photo of the parent and baby sitting next to each other before the parent left are something.

      They do take turns at the birdbath, and it’s great fun to see. I get a chuckle out of this one, too. It has to contend with the big, fat pigeons at the water bowl, but it’s fearless, and has found ways to sneak in among them for a drink.

  2. I love your photo with its bright colors in contrast to the dullness of the bird. I have mourning doves come to my deck railing every evening. They have become part of my routine.

    1. One reason I enjoy them so is that they tend to be predictable. Once they’ve chosen a feeder or water bowl (or even a perch) to visit, they’ll come again and again, making it possible to know them as individuals.

      In this one’s case, it comes early enough in the morning that I can put a handful of feed out for it before I go to bed, and it manages to have a little breakfast before the pigeons come by. I had to stop any general feeding to discourage those darned pigeons. They’ll run off other birds, and mine did a fine job of it.

  3. Picture is stunning in its colorful beauty. What an angle! Was it in flight or was it just beginning a take off? The wing seems to overlap the green leaf. You are a whiz with the photos.

    1. It was taking off. It had been sitting on the railing for a while, just enjoying the sunset. I happened to be on the balcony trying to take a photo of a flower, so I was sitting on a stepstool below the level of the bird. I really was pleased with the way the photo turned out, with the nice, sharp head and the movement of the wings.

  4. Feeding the pigeons is what my dad used to do on some Sundays with his clutch of children back in The Hague, Holland. It gave our mother some respite from the bustle of a noisy family.

    He used to take us to the Peace Palace where many others were also feeding the birds. The cooing was part of the fun and so was the chasing of male birds after the females. If one stood still the birds would fly up and take rest on your arm. A pigeon has charm. I don’t know why.

    1. I often watch people on the brick walkway that edges the marina feeding the mallards or seagulls. There’s something about being in the midst of a flock of birds that’s appealing, if just slightly dangerous. There’s a reason our seaside restaurants usually have netting above any outside tables, to discourage the seagulls particularly. I wish I could discourage the pigeons that lurk around here. They’re like little feathered vacuum cleaners when it comes to food.

      The doves will flock, too, but I rarely see large flocks in urban or suburban areas. Right now, they’re enjoying themselves in the rice fields and grasslands, where the food’s especially abundant.

  5. Lovely poem. Wendell Berry is a poetic nature observer. I’m still in TO and will be driving to Pelée National Park this weekend. It’s the southernmost tip of Canada, famous as a birding hot spot. It’s more south than Detroit. Will hopefully take some pics there, hopefully cause the weather forecast is rain. Will see. Check it out.

    1. Hope they haven’t left yet and you also see loads of Monarchs while you’re there, Arti! Also writing from the North Shore of Lake Ontario. Deb.
      P.S. Did you know that Point Pelée/Middle Island are also farther south than parts of Northern California?

      1. I didn’t know that (about the latitude of Point Pelée). It’s often interesting to compare latitudes. A friend in Lubbock points out from time to time that her city’s at the same latitude as Casablanca.

    2. We have rain on tap for this weekend, too, which really is discouraging after all we’ve had. But, if someone has to have rain, I hope it’s me and not thee. Of course, depending on the kind of birds and the layout of the park, you may be able to get some fine photos from the car. I’ve been surprised by how well those mobile bird blinds work.

      I’ve enjoyed Berry since I was introduced to him, and it pleased me to find a good match for this photo among his poems.

      Drive safely, and have a good time!

  6. Was the pigeon landing, or taking off, or just fluttering?

    A view partly from behind is less common than from the side or front. It may have been what was available, but it works—unlike the Greek gods, who were so clearly amplified people.

    1. It was taking off. I’d been out on the balcony trying to get some decent photos of the tiny flowers and seeds of a Texas nightshade that showed up in one of my potted cacti, so I happened to be sitting behind and below the dove. (The leaves are those of the nightshade.) The bird had been sitting, but when it stood up I knew take-off was near, so I changed the camera settings and waited. One good photo out of a dozen isn’t bad at all.

      By the way, pigeons and some doves are in the same family, and look very much the same. I realized in the middle of the night that I’d forgotten to add the caption to the photo, so I got up and did it about 3 a.m. It wasn’t there when you first saw the post.

    1. I don’t think I’ve ever lived in a place where doves weren’t. The species in Liberia were different (apart from the rock dove, or common pigeon) but they still were in the family. They’re wonderful birds, and do help to make a home. There’s nothing more soothing than their cooing at sunset.

  7. I like doves. We have occasional visitors to our garden: when they fly away they make a whirring sound with their wings which is instantly recognisable. Ours are spotted doves, introduced into Australia in the 1860s, and I think they’re rather pretty, not plain at all.

    1. You’re right about the sound of doves taking flight. There’s no mistaking it, even when the birds themselves aren’t visible.

      The black and white collar on your spotted dove is unusual, and certainly would make identification easy. I laughed when I came across a note that said their nest is a “loose platform of sticks.” That’s a good description of the dove nests I see. It’s almost as though they know they’re supposed to build a nest of some sort, but they really would rather sit around and coo, so they make a half-hearted attempt and call it good.

  8. Lovely little stolen portrait, Linda. Certainly a unique view. We get many Mourning Doves at our feeders and, considering that doves are a sign of peace, they can shock with their bullying of other birds.
    Wendell Berry never disappoints and you have paired his poem with your image so well.

    1. I’ve never heard the phrase ‘stolen portrait,’ but it’s perfect. As for bullying, I’ve never seen it in the ones who come around here, but that’s probably because they’re busy trying to cope with the pigeons. I had to quit feeding birds because of those pigeons; they not only eat every bit of the food themselves, they drove off every other bird in the neighborhood. Pre-pigeon, I had cardinals, finches of various sorts, chickadees, doves… It irritates me just to think of it.

      Berry’s one of my favorites, and not only for his poetry. In fact, the title of a collection of his agrarian essays — The Art of the Commonplace — would do just as well for this photo.

      1. The mourning doves are not alone in their aggressiveness here. Blue Jays, of course, but also Starlings and Grackles. They aren’t so much bullies as just large birds who take what they want and leave the crumbs for the smaller birds. We only feed in the winter now. Bears are a problem and we have had three feeders crushed or disappearing as a result of them.

        I have read parts of The Art of the Commonplace. I’ll get back to it when I have more time for reading this winter.

    1. Would never even know they’d arrived if it weren’t for the subtle whistling of their wings. They’ve the most sublime colouration of taupe to grey to beige to rose of breast and soot-dark dotted beauty marks. Dove grey is not simply one shade, but an artists’ pallette of many

      1. You’re the second to mention the sound of their wings. It is unmistakable, and as pleasant as their cooing. You’re right about their colors, too. Have you ever seen the spotted doves from Australia? They have a little extra decoration going for them.

    2. Doves love marinas, too, and often perch on sailboat spreaders morning and evening. There’s nothing quite like having the cooing of doves to make a workplace pleasant.

  9. The mourning doves are lovely and you have captured that loveliness in your photo. I would love to have some to watch from my window. The scientific name Zenaida macroura captured my attention. It sounded like the perfect name for a dove; soft, flowing, and incorporating the susurration of the wings, and cooing of the dove. Investigating the name further I was fascinated to discover that it came fromZénaïde Laetitia Julie Bonaparte courtesy of her ornithologist husband, Charles Lucien Bonaparte.

    1. My little dove just showed up for its morning drink of water. It is a lovely companion.

      Sometimes I explore scientific names, and sometimes I don’t, but i’m certainly glad this one caught your attention. The history’s quite intriguing. It surprised me to see that her name was ‘Julie’ rather than ‘Julia,’ as Julie sounds far more modern to me. On an entirely unrelated note, it reminded me of the wonderful movie, Julie and Julia, which you would enjoy immensely if you haven’t seen it.

    1. Have you read Berry’s agrarian essays titled The Art of the Commonplace. I think you’d enjoy those. He can be quite a curmudgeon, and I’ve never agreed with him in all respects, but he’s very much in line with the thinking of people I know you do appreciate, like Aldo Leopold.

      I’m glad you like the photo. It’s one of my favorites — and proof that leaving home isn’t always necessary for a nice glimpse of nature.

      1. So true. I’m grateful for all the native trees and shrubs I put in 21 years ago, because now I can sit at my window and see a lot of wonderful birds.
        I believe that is what I read but it has been awhile. Like you, there are some things he says I don’t agree with but the basics I do.

  10. The photograph and the poem are perfect bookends to your observations, to your attention to your surroundings. Simone Weil is quoted as saying “attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” Thanks for that.

    1. I’ve not heard that Weil quotation, but it’s certainly akin to one I treasure from Mary Oliver: ““Attention without feeling is only a report.” It’s probably no mistake that when Oliver or Weil were pushed even the slightest bit, they willingly acknowledged that a point exists where attentions slips into prayer. In fact, one of Oliver’s most touching poems balances on that point:

      It doesn’t have to be
      the blue iris, it could be
      weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
      small stones; just
      pay attention, then patch

      a few words together and don’t try
      to make them elaborate, this isn’t
      a contest but the doorway

      into thanks, and a silence in which
      another voice may speak.

  11. “…but as a little bird hidden in the leaves…”

    Our last solitary hummingbird sits quietly. There are no sparring partners. No one to chase from the feeder. Soon it will head south for warmer climes.

    1. And if it stops here on its way south, it will find a great reception. The rains have increased the number of hummingbird friendly flowers, and feeders are blooming everywhere. The affection shown the little birds is remarkable.

    1. I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting a quail, since their preferred territory’s far north of me. I’ve seen Cheri’s photos, of course, and I must say they’re cute as can be. Lucky you, to have them part of your world!

    1. Their calls in spring and summer always are a delight. This is their quiet season, but they’re still a delight to see. They’re a bit like the deer — they seem to know when hunting season’s begun, and they keep a low profile for a while!

  12. A very beautiful photo, Linda, that carried your thoughts like the wings of the bird that enjoyed the shelter of your home. How I love the writing of Wendell Berry. Just discovered him recently, and his words follow me often, as I go about my day.

    1. I’m not surprised that you appreciate Wendell Berry. He’s far more than ‘a nature poet.’ He’s a true radical, in the José Martí sense of the word: a “genuine man who goes to the roots.”

      Your current post, and my little dove, remind me of these words of his: “The world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles, no matter how long, but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch, very arduous and humbling and joyful, by which we arrive at the ground at our own feet, and learn to be at home.”

    1. I’ve never thought of doves as klutzy, but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made: especially when it comes to their nest building abilities. Every time I see one of their nests, I just laugh. It’s as though they’re saying, “I know I’m supposed to throw a few sticks together. Will this do?”

      But lovely? Yes. I especially enjoy watching them raise their broods; they’re so attentive to their young, and to one another.

    1. I do enjoy finding poems and images that together communicate something special about these creatures. It was especially delightful when it came to the dove, which so often is stereotyped. I don’t mind if people use them as symbols of peace (or whatever) — I’ve done it myself. But they’re delightful just as they are, and worth celebrating as “just birds.”

  13. They have been called ‘feathered rats’, but I think they are beautiful. I do remember a night in Spain with a nest just outside the window of our hotel, lit by a bright light all night, and these comfortable birds cooed all night long in their cozy home. By morning I did not like them.

    1. Why in the world would people call them “feathered rats”? I suppose it must have arisen in areas where they’re quite common, and seem as ordinary as sparrows. As for those nighttime cooers, they remind me of my love-lorn mockingbird. You got a double dose, though — both the birds, and the light to keep you awake. No wonder you weren’t so kindly disposed toward them by the time morning came.

        1. Then I will honor and esteem the term! I loved reading Caen for years — he was a wonderful writer, with a wonderfully sardonic wit. There are times when I really miss the San Francisco of those years — I fear it doesn’t exist any more — it seems to have been siliconized!

  14. This was exactly what I needed to read today. Our 1924 house is in turmoil, electricians up and down stairs, drilling, and rewiring the entire house after we heard a loud bang in one of the walls. Most of our wiring, we’ve learned was the kind bound in cloth from the 1020s. There’s tools and grinding and drilling. And at the same time, I am grateful we are high and dry and not in the Carolinas. So I will listen to the song of a drill and call it the voice of the gods saving us from our house going up in flames. Thank you.

    1. I inherited a lamp from my mother that had cloth-bound wiring. A friend took one look at it and said, “Rewire that danged thing!” Of course, a lamp is not a house: I’m so glad you discovered the problem, despite the expense and the hassle of getting it fixed up. The expense and hassle of dealing with a house fire would have been exponentially worse.

      Your comment about the song of a drill reminded me of those favorite lines from the Song of Solomon, here rephrased:

      For, lo, the danger is past,
      The threat is over and gone;
      The electricians appear in the house;
      The time of singing is come,
      And the voice of the drill is heard in our land.

  15. Your photo of the dove is magnificent – it looks like an angel. We have mourning doves too and love the simplicity of watching them come in for water in the bird bath. Thanks for sharing Berry’s poem – I don’t think I had ever read it.

    1. There’s a tendency to forgo ‘bird watching’ in favor of ‘birding’ these days: the thought being that birds are identified by sound as often as by sight. But there’s enormous pleasure to be had in just watching birds, and dove watching is especially rewarding. There’s nothing that lowers the blood pressure so quickly or effectively, and Berry’s poem only increases the effect.

  16. There’s something bird-ally attractive about the part of my roof where the vent for the range hood comes out. I’ll be puttering in the kitchen early in the morning, and the next thing I know, I’m inadvertently eavesdropping on a mourning dove having a quiet little boohoo by the vent pipe . . .

    1. I’ve been amused this spring by the ongoing battle between the maintenance crew and the nesting sparrows. They’re particularly attracted to the dryer vents, and despite my thought that all that warm air coming out might make nest maintenance a problem, they’re determined. But coos coming down a vent pipe? That’s something that could be enjoyable — at least, once I figured out what it was.

  17. On the run these next few weeks, but I had to say I adore the photo! The angle, the color, the variance in focus – all lovely. I am drawn to the tiny bit of blue around his eye that matches the sky!

    1. I wondered if anyone would notice that blue ring around the eye, and you did! It’s one of my favorite details in the photo: totally unexpected, and delightful. Safe travels to you!

      1. In my space as well, it’s just the usual suspects. About 3 weeks ago, I enjoyed a week-long visit of a pair of Yellow warblers, and that’s all I’ve seen of any migratory birds.

        1. I’ve spent three weeks trying to find a bird that’s singing over in the marina. It keeps moving around, and I can’t find it. It starts as soon as it’s light, with a four note or two note call, and then, by 8 or so, the song’s done. It’s not like anything I’ve ever heard. I’m working my way though some lists. If I still can’t find it, I’m going to have to learn how to use my camera to record the song.

  18. Linda, I’ve always loved mourning doves. Such quiet, unassuming birds with a sweet, plaintive song! Often I go out in the yard and “coo” with them — poor Dallas thinks we’re both nuts! Anyway, there’s something special about a bird that mates for life (even though when one of the pair is gone, the other eventually chooses a new mate). Thanks for such a lovely end to my day!

    1. I talk to mallards all the time, so it makes sense to me that you’d coo to your doves. I don’t see anything strange about that at all. Tell Dallas there are things about people he’ll never understand.

      The family bonds they establish are so strong — not only between the male and female, but also with the young. As you say, it’s sometimes necessary for one of a mated pair to begin again, and they are willing to let the young ones fly when the time has come, but in the meantime? It’s marvelous to behold.

      And they do provide a lovely ending to the day; I’m glad the post gave you a bit of the same feeling.

  19. I like that photo very much. The green leaves look like a silk scarf, part of a magician’s act, making a bird appear. To be honest, not sure I understand the poem, but it has beautiful language. “Gods whose names crest in unearthly fire” I know is not the point, but punchy writing.

      1. I’d say Berry’s more in line with a strain of thought that began developing back in the sixties with theologians like Joseph Sittler, whose Care of the Earth and other Sermons was published in 1962 — the same year as Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. This paragraph from Berry’s novel Jayber Crow sheds some light, I think.

        I am, maybe, the ultimate Protestant, the man at the end of the Protestant road, for as I have read the Gospels over the years, the belief has grown in me that Christ did not come to found an organized religion but came instead to found an unorganized one. He seems to have come to carry religion out of the temples into the fields and sheep pastures, onto the roadsides and the banks of rivers, into the houses of sinners and publicans into the town and the wilderness, toward the membership of all that is here.

        1. Linda, thank you for these thoughtful responses, I really appreciate it. I read every day, and try to keep my ears & mind open, but there’s so much to learn out there. So thank you again, I enjoyed this and learned something.

    1. Now that you mention it, I can see the stage magician at work, pulling those scarves and birds out of his hat. (I didn’t see a rabbit — maybe next time.)

      As for those gods, my understanding of Berry’s world view is far from complete, but he is a theological thinker, and the phrase “the gods are less for their love of praise” reminded me of Luther, who liked to say that “a god means that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress.” Luther was big on pointing out the human tendency to choose “lesser gods” to trust, and I suspect Berry was talking about all those lesser gods: money, status, technology, individualism, politicians of various stripes, fancy cars — you name it, someone’s elevated it to godlike status.

      I’ve always thought of “gods whose names crest in unearthly fire” as the self-promoters in the bunch, with flashing neon signs: “Trust Me!”

  20. Lovely sentiments! Can’t help thinking about the decline in bird varieties and numbers here compared with when we moved here, especially the past twenty years.

    1. We’re experiencing the opposite, at least in some instances. The brown pelicans have come back, and this year’s returning flock of whooping cranes is even larger. But it’s a fact that development has brought an end to the presence of some species — the land where a friend used to hunt quail with his dad is nothing but skyscraper and concrete now — and others, like the Attwater prairie chicken are threatened almost to extinction. But it seems to me that people are becoming more aware of what even individuals can do. ‘Wildscaping’ instead of ‘landscaping’ is one good change — less turf grass and more native plants helps birds as well as butterflies.

  21. I have yet to see a pigeon outside of an urban setting. Come to think of it, there seems to be more pigeons downtown than in the neighborhoods. Maybe it is because pigeons are social creatures and even though people do not seem to like them, they like people and gather where people do.

    1. I’d never thought about it, but like you, I see pigeons in urban/suburban settings, and not in the country. A little exploration helped to explain it. In their native habitat, they lived on rocks cliffs and ledges: hence the name ‘rock doves.’ The buildings and skyscrapers of our cities most closely resemble their life in that former environment; they’re on those window ledges and rooflines by choice, not necessity.

      Whether they like us is hard to say, but they certainly like our buildings, and at least are willing to tolerate us in order to utilize them.

      1. The buildings and skyscrapers of our cities most closely resemble their life in that former environment; they’re on those window ledges and rooflines by choice, not necessity.

        One might also add that the downtown areas lack credible predators. One rarely sees hawks in the central city, yet more and more cities are inviting falcons into town as pigeon control.

        1. I’m sure the law of unintended consequences is lurking around somewhere, but it will be interesting to see how that works out if it’s pursued with any degree of determination.

    1. I hope you have doves at the lake, too. Their calling in the evening is something everyone ought to experience. But, if not, I hope you have them at home — now that lake-time is over!

    1. I knew someone who raised homing pigeons, but I’ve never known someone who raised a dove. It must have been a great experience. Did you release it, or did it eventually “release” itself and fly off? By chance, do you have any advice on a seed that doves would enjoy, but pigeons would leave alone? So far, the only thing I’ve found that aren’t eaten by the pigeons are peanuts in the shell, but of course doves can’t eat those, either. They do suit the bluejays, so at least I have those.

    1. “Squeak” is a description I haven’t heard, although I did have one that I swear was going “Ooof!” when it finally would plop onto the railing. I’m seeing more and more white-wing and ring-necked doves, and every now and then I get so see an Inca (or scale) dove with its wonderfully patterned feathers.

  22. I’m a big fan of Doves and especially the ones which I used to see often. They are one of the few, (if only), birds I’ve been able to ‘tame’ in the sense of them getting used to me and allowing me to get really close (about 8-10″ away).

    Their cooing used to wake me most mornings in my previous apartment.

    1. They are friendly birds, and after a time seem to get accustomed to “their” humans being around. This one doesn’t automatically fly when I go outdoors now, although it does keep an eye on me. I’ve learned that I can get closer if I don’t make direct eye contact. I don’t know if that’s common among birds, or just one of this one’s little quirks.

      There’s nothing more pleasant than their cooing. I love mating season, because they’re everywhere in the marinas, and I get to listen to them during the day while I work.

  23. These lovely birds can be quite feisty when it comes to food, Linda. We have a pair that hang out around our house in the spring, cooing, and doing their dove thing. They like to sit under our bird feeder and pick up left overs. I’ve watched them take on much bigger birds and even ground squirrels. I had to rethink my thoughts about doves representing peace! Curt

    1. Being a symbol of peace is one thing — getting dinner is another. They can be assertive, that’s for sure; the pecking order is alive and well. They’re even willing to take on the pigeons, but the problem I have is that any food the doves can eat will draw far more pigeons than I want on my balcony. One or two would be fine. Even three. A couple of dozen? Not so much!

        1. I bought a pair of tube feeders with the wire cages on them. The little birds could get in to feed, while the pigeons could only sit around and mope. Three days later, the pigeons had figured out that if they got on top of the feeders and set them swinging, they could spill seed onto the ground. Grrrrrr…..

            1. Go check your spam folder and let me out of spam jail, Curt ~ I think I have things worked out with Akismet now, but I can’t leave a comment on your blogs while you still have me marked as a spammer. Oy, vey.

    1. I’m sitting here thinking… the jays are the percussion, and the sparrows may be the piccolos. Would that make the doves the string section? They’re certainly as melodious.

            1. And at the end, I found myself thinking of the Andrews Sisters. It’s a little disconcerting to realize I grew up listening to their music, but so it is. Great music, then and now.

  24. I love this image you’ve posted. Birds are indeed the poetry of the wind, sky and earth. We have Mourning, White-winged, Inca, and Eurasian Collared species of dove here, and they are present all through the year. I have rehabbed a number of doves, raising mostly orphans. They’re very easy to bond with, and on freeing them, they hang around a couple of weeks and then they’re off to new adventures. Their unusual wing chirp or whistle on flight is something I’ve always marveled at.

    Sadly, like cottontails and squirrels, the dove is an easy pick for predators. I often find scatterings of dove feathers on my hikes. But many times in winter I marvel at their tenacity and resilience… finding warmth in the sun, and knowing where to pluck seed from the wild plants. The know the best water sources, and they camouflage wherever they happen to be – ground or tree. It’s a wonderful thing to find a flock taking flight and not having a clue they were roosting so near.

    1. I love that we share all four species of dove. The white-winged used to be limited to south Texas, and I didn’t see any around here until about twenty years ago. Now, they’re seen more frequently, and their range seems to be expanding. It’s intrigued me to see the number of people who’ve mentioned the sound of their wings, and the different words they use to describe it. You’ve just added another one: ‘chirp.’

      The last time I found dove feathers, they formed a perfect circle in the middle of an otherwise perfectly groomed lawn. It wasn’t hard to figure out what had happened. I’m sure one of our local hawks spotted it from the air, and that was that. It did look like a feathery bomb had gone off — but I couldn’t help but admire the skill of the hawk. Every now and then there will be a tremendous hit on my glass door, and I know what’s happened: a hawk has come swooping in for a feeding bird, and a takeoff in the wrong direction caused the ruckus. So far, I’ve had only one stunned dove who needed some time to recover, but “some time’ was only about a half hour. Then, it was on the wing again.

      In Pilgrim At Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard talks about the same experience: startling a flock of unseen birds from a tree. It really is wonderful.

        1. Another good one that was recommended to me while I was prowling Arkansas is Reading the Landscape of America, by May Theilgaard Watts. I’ve only skimmed it, but I think it would be wonderful for you as you explore the layers and layers of history on your land — and the stories the land has to tell.

    1. Obviously, there are a lot of people with a lot of affection for doves — which makes me happy. It’s always nice to be able to post something that resonates with people, and the cooing of doves surely does!

  25. What a stunning capture of the dove, Linda. >3 Paired with your words and the beautiful poem it instantly did something with me. We have so many pigeons in the garden and the numbers are growing all the time ( this summer I counted 8 nests, just in our trees) but it’s no excuse to think of them as annoying creatures. I love to feed the birds outside and of course the pigeons appreciate my generous bird tables. ;-)

    When the pigeons leave, misfortune follows.
    ⁠—Indian superstition.

    By the way, Pilgrim At Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard is a wonderful read.

    1. There’s a delightful ambiguity about that Indian superstition, Dina! When the pigeons leave, does misfortune take leave, too, following along in their wake? Or does misfortune come to roost where once the pigeons sat, taking up “their” space instead? I fear I’ll never have an answer, because I don’t think my pigeons ever are going to leave. They have long memories, those birds. The clearly remember that they once found food at my place, and they’re never going to stop checking it out.

      Actually, if I had a yard and trees I wouldn’t mind them at all. But a couple dozen pigeons — or even two or three — can deposit quite a mess on a small balcony, and I’m not so fond of beginning or ending every day cleaning up pigeon poo!

      Now, the doves are much better behaved, and considerably neater. I love watching them — they seem to exude peacefulness, and their soft cooing is ever so much more appealing than the cawing of crows (or politicians, or smug bureaucrats, or….)

      I’m pleased the photo pleased you, particularly since yours always bring me such delight.

  26. Late to the table, Linda. I love your photo! I love doves! It is their quiet connection to each other that I admire in such a noisy crow and bluejay world.

    1. I keep telling you, Cheri — there is no ‘late’ around here! You’re certainly right about that quiet connection. I just mentioned that to Dina. It’s one of the things I most enjoy about them. One of these days, this single dove will find a companion, and then there will be two on the railing.

  27. The lingering sorrow in the eyes of the mourning dove is captured well in your photo, Linda…blue, frozen sorrow. We have these red eyed plaintive cuckoos here who fill the air with their plaintive notes. They too have an air of sadness about them! Enjoyed reading your post.

    1. Strange as it may seem, rethy, I’ve never thought of these birds as particularly sorrowful. Their cooing always has seemed to express contentment rather than sadness, and their seeming delight in just perching at the end of day seems almost human to me. It is interesting that you have a cuckoo that also sounds a plaintive note. So many of us hear associate cuckoos with cuckoo clocks, and there’s nothing plaintive about those chirpers!

      1. Loved your analysis on the doves. Some of the birds look sorrowful. All other cuckoos sing with full throated ease like Shelly’s Skylark or Keats’ Nightingale. Only the plaintive cuckoo has this doleful disposition and plaintive song. Then appearances can be deceptive too!

        1. Very interesting. And I do enjoy that word ‘plaintive.’ It’s so perfectly descriptive. Beyond that, I’ve never before seen the connection between ‘complaint’ and ‘plaintive,’ but there it is. Interestingly, the legal term ‘plaintiff’ is related, too, but I don’t think the birds are filing suit!

  28. Beautiful perspective and composition in the photo, and a fine poem. I just read a story by Wendell Berry in Threepenny Review, set in the fictional town that he invented for his fiction.

    1. I’m especially fond of the movement in the feathers, and the way it sets off the nice, sharp eye and beak. I’ll give myself credit for the patience to sit and wait for the bird to fly, but that I managed to get such a nice photo was more luck than intent. Glad you enjoyed the photo, and the poem. Have you ever read Berry’s essay on why he would not (no, never, ever, NEVER!) use a computer? If not, I’ll find and link it for you. It’s hilarious — although he may have changed his mind by now.

      1. I like the foreground OOF foliage and the feathers – your eye goes right to the eye and beak. Please send the link to the Berry essay. The story I read is “The Great Interruption”, by the way.

        1. Here you are: the essay. Note that it’s not from Berry’s site; it’s been transcribed by someone. I haven’t been able to find a good copy online that’s free of the (somewhat ironic) typos.

          This was written many years ago, but I did find a note on another site that, as of 2010, he still hadn’t budged. I’m inordinately fond of true curmudgeons, so I find the piece hilarious — and thought provoking.

        2. A note: at the bottom of the computer essay, there’s a big-fonted link that says “then a newer idea is not to use one.” If you click on that, it takes you to another great dose of Berry’s thought. Very provocative.

    1. Thanks, Lynn. Every time I look at the photo, it makes me happy. I haven’t seen the bird for a few days now, but I hope it’s still around. If not? I have something to remember it by.

  29. I discovered this poem accidentally and have been a great fan of it ever since. And to come across this picture, I’ve found a near perfect representation of the verses.

    1. He can be a bit of a curmudgeon, but I’m rather fond of curmudgeons, and a great fan of his poems. Some tend toward didacticism, but when offered something like this, all is forgiven! I’ve glimpsed the reason for your absence, by the way. I’ll be by later to see the wonderful details.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Otto. I think Wendell Berry is underappreciated, and I try to share a bit of his work now and then, just to introduce him to people who might not have encountered it yet.

    1. Aren’t they, though? There’s nothing I like more than the cooing of doves morning and evening (unless it would be robins, but we’re short on robins here). Their sound is as pretty as their song.

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