Birds are procreating in my petunias!
March 24, 2009 7:54 AM   Subscribe

A pair of mourning doves have started a nest in the flower box outside my 3rd floor bedroom window. How do I reconcile our conflict of interest?

Our 3rd floor balcony has a wall of French doors with a faux balcony railing on which we keep several flower boxes of petunias, and I just noticed this morning that a small mourning dove has started building a nest in it. Now, I don't mind having birds raise a family there (in fact, I'd love to photograph the younglings if I get a chance, and the whole thing would just make me happy regardless), but it really isn't an appropriate spot for a home: I like to open the windows at night and during the day when the weather allows it, and I need to regularly water my flowers.

The nest is still very small: should I move it somewhere, and would that be equivalent to destroying it? I just read here that doves are notoriously quick to abandon their nests (including eggs and young offspring) when they perceive danger--should I just keep opening my windows as usual and hope that the doves won't come back and seek build another nest elsewhere before the female lays eggs? One of them quickly flew away when it saw me walking around this morning, that's how I noticed the nest in the first place.

I feel rather guilty about inquiring how to evict the young family, so I'd like to do what I can to help out: would installing a birdhouse on my uncovered roof terrace attract any birds (doves or otherwise)? There aren't any suitable trees on our property, just several 6' tall Italian cypress trees. What else can I do to ensure that birds keep coming to my city?
posted by halogen to Pets & Animals (16 answers total)
Response by poster: I didn't make this clear; I worry that if the doves stay, they will eventually abandon their nest including their defenseless offspring due to the presence of people in the room and the necessity of my regularly intruding upon them to water my flowers.
posted by halogen at 8:06 AM on March 24, 2009

Too risky.. keep shooing them away. Alternately, remove your flowers so you don't need to open the window, but you will still need to use that room, yes?
posted by By The Grace of God at 8:10 AM on March 24, 2009

Best answer: I have a neighbor that has had mourning doves nest (multiple clutches per season) on her heavily used porch the past two summers. She lets them be, but mostly goes about her business normally. The doves have not abandoned a single nest.

IMO, if the nest doesn't have eggs yet and you feel intruded upon, go destroy the nest now. They will go build somewhere else at no serious energy expense (Dove nests are the flimsiest nests I've ever seen, they are miserably constructed; can't be that hard for them!).

If there are eggs and/or young, if you move the nest that's pretty much a guaranteed failure. I'd recommend just letting them hatch and fledge if that's the case.

Birds typically go through a big blood chemistry change when they are nesting that allows them to alter their behavior in order to stay on the nest. In other words, they become somewhat fearless. I'm surprised to read that link about doves and nest abandonment, because that's certainly not what I saw on my neighbor's porch. I stood within a foot of the parent several times over the course of the season, and it barely blinked.
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:16 AM on March 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

If there isn't eggs in it, I'd say your best course of action is to get rid of the nest now. You opening a window, you making noise, you watering flowers is going to be perceived as danger to them and I am sure if they abandoned a nest full of eggs or young offspring, you'd be feel awful.

As an aside, growing up, I never had any luck with birds using a bird house that was in any proximity to people, often times it ended up as a great place for bees to make a little hive.
posted by jerseygirl at 8:20 AM on March 24, 2009

I think you should remove the nest post-haste and attach a shiny streamer or something to keep them away.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:20 AM on March 24, 2009

I wouldn't risk it if the experts say they're likely to adandon their babies. That would be too sad. (My parents had a similar experience to mcstayinskool's neighbor. The doves built a nest in a container of petunias on their porch, very near lots of activity from at least two people. There are even pictures of my mom and step-dad posing next to the babies.)
posted by Mavri at 8:54 AM on March 24, 2009

Ancedote, but my parents seem to attract mourning doves who create nests around their house, especially right beside the heavily used front and back door. They talk to the birds when they walk by but otherwise ignore them except for photographing them.
posted by saucysault at 9:15 AM on March 24, 2009

Best answer: mcstayinskool has it right -- we've got doves who nest every year on top of a column on our porch (I can see them from here! Hi Lenore!), and they're right in the path of our front door, plenty of noise and commotion, not to mention a giant glass picture window where our two cats sit and watch Bird TV ALL DAY LONG.

Lenore doesn't care. She just chills. She didn't even care when the rest of the porch was getting painted a year ago, including her column.

Can you move the next out of the box to a protected corner? Or alternately, have you considered watering that particular flowerbox from the bottom up / with one of those watering globes? I don't think they'll much mind you watering the other ones normally / opening your door, etc.
posted by at 9:19 AM on March 24, 2009

Best answer: Hey, same thing happened to us too, add my vote to "eh, they'll manage." The doves built their nest less than a foot above a set of French doors leading out to my patio and right next to a window. Despite heavy foot traffic (including the doors getting slammed loudly) and constant goggle-eyed surveillance by three cats who've glued themselves to the window, the doves have been calmly raising their brood. Unflappably so, one might say.

However, if you do decide to move the nest, the doves will just build somewhere else. They lay 3-6 clutches (sets of eggs) a year and like to reuse nesting sites, so while the baby doves fledge quickly the nest site will be in use much of the warm season.
posted by jamaro at 9:28 AM on March 24, 2009

Also, mourning doves are ledge nesters. They will not inhabit an enclosed birdhouse. You can build them a ledge or hang a few open-topped baskets as alternative nesting sites.
posted by jamaro at 9:35 AM on March 24, 2009

Best answer: We have a couple of mourning doves that have been occupants of the trees behind our house for a couple years. Until I read the anecdotes here, I never put 2 and 2 together that they don't actually scare as easily as the other birds at the feeders. They just sort of walk away.

If you do decide to make it work with your new tenants and they do raise a brood, follow up with pictures in an AskMe? I think they are beautiful little birds and love their coos.
posted by jerseygirl at 9:57 AM on March 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

I am not sure where the next is exactly, but could you switch around the flowerboxes so that the next is furthest away from most activity? That way you wouldn't be touching the nest (this still might drive them away, but worth a shot), and they could stay and you could water most of the flowers and open and close most of the windows.
posted by Vaike at 12:20 PM on March 24, 2009

Best answer: Yaaay an ornithology question, something im actually qualified to put my $0.02 in on ^_^

So far everyone is pretty spot-on. I have seen mourning doves build nests right over doors over heavily trafficked areas and stick to it come hell or high water. But thats with people walking past below and pointedly not messing around with the nest. If they're in a windowbox, you coming and going right next to/above them is an entirely different threat. I agree that watching a little family of doves grow up right in front of you is an awesome idea, but it's good that you're concerned about the big picture. If you're leaving your window open, is it possible the parents might stumble into the house accidentally? Is the box easily accessible to cats or raccoons or other predators (including squirrels, believe it or not)? These are things that we can see but the birds might not be aware of.

It's early in the season, so even if they abandoned the nest with a couple eggs in it, I guarantee that they will have at least one, maybe two, healthy clutches before the end of the summer. If you don't feel comfortable dismantling what nest they have already, then I would recommend that you keep up your activity using the windowbox (puttering around, watering, opening and closing the window). That alone should unsettle the birds and encourage them to try somewhere else.

If the birds STILL decide to nest there, well then that's their choice; at least you will have given them fair warning through your actions. In such a case, don't stare at them for long periods of time as they sit on the nest; they'll take that a more direct predatory threat than you just moving nearby watering the plants. Watch them secretly through the blinds/curtains, or even set up a web-cam.
posted by CTORourke at 12:58 PM on March 24, 2009

Best answer: I had a pair on my fire escape one spring, and they definitely tolerated a good-sized woman crawling in and out of the window. (I use the fire-escape as sort of a terrace.) They would sit right there and watch me. They built a very flimsy nest and had two eggs. What finally put an end to everything was a bad thunderstorm - I came back after a weekend out of town and everything was missing - nest, eggs and parents. I was surprised at how emotionally invested I had become in the whole thing - I was very bummed out when they were gone.
posted by Wylie Kyoto at 1:10 PM on March 24, 2009

Response by poster: Update: we moved the flower box to the side (it's now in front of a large window that doesn't open as opposed to the French windows) and rigged some Tygon tubing to water the petunias without disturbing the birds. The nest has been constantly manned by one of the doves since, but I am not sure whether eggs have been laid yet. Hopefully, I can post pictures of chicks (the other kind) in a week or so!
posted by halogen at 6:54 AM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Update: as per request, here are some pictures of the dove family. Do, the bigger squab, is a fledgling now and has left the nest to fly around with the big guys and look for his own seeds on the ground (we're pretty much feeding a whole bunch of neighborhood doves at this point, along with cardinals, sparrows, and other birds) although we saw a parent feeding him and snuggling up to him on a ledge yesterday. We're so proud of him! Re, the smaller youngling, is still in the nest, but we saw her leave it for the first time this morning to walk around on the railing.

We love these guys.
posted by halogen at 8:49 AM on April 24, 2009 [3 favorites]

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