Whatever it was worrying, was alive and kicking, as the object fluttered around trying to escape the crow’s beak. I thought it might be a bird as it appeared dovelike, was smaller than the crow and maybe dragging a wing. Any creature higher up the food chain wastes little time targeting the old and weak and the crow was very determined.
Repeatedly, it dive-bombed the bird below, getting bolder each time. The American crow is omnivorous. It will feed on invertebrates of all types, carrion scraps of human food, seeds, eggs and nestlings, stranded fish on the shore and various grains. They are active hunters and will prey on mice, frogs and other small animals so a wounded smaller bird wasn’t off the menu.
I suppose I was thinking that perhaps the dove needed saving. If it was a matter of a broken wing, that could be fixed and a trip to Hope For Wildlife was in our future. So I put on my coat and hat and gloves that would protect me from the beak and went outside.
As I stepped out on the deck, the screen door banged behind me and both birds took flight. The crow flew away and settled in a nearby tree, cawed a few times and then watched me. The dove tried to fly away but only made it a few feet and then dropped something out of its claws to the ground below and then flew out of sight.
I could feel the crow’s eyes burning deep as I made my way through the crusty snow. As I approached the object I could make out a wing and then saw the entire body of a dead bird. The reason why I couldn't make out the creature on the ground from the window was because it was flopping about while holding on to a dead bird. I realized immediately I had interfered in something, whether for the good or the bad, I did not know.
I scooped up the cold, limp body of a dove and examined it closely. One doesn’t get this kind of up close moment to examine nature often. The bird was beautiful. The delicate head, with iridescent feathers, shapely beak and eyes were like a beautiful painting. I examined the body to determine the cause of death but nothing was revealed. Some wing and body feathers had been plucked away leaving bare, rippled skin but there wasn’t any blood. Perhaps the cause of death was a broken neck from hitting something hard or maybe it was just its time on the roster.
I laid the little, fragile body on top of the BBQ cover and went into the house wondering if the dove would come back looking for its ward. I looked up doves on the internet to read about their habits and it said that they will take care of their dead mate. I felt sad momentarily that I had interrupted a natural process but as I read further maybe I helped. It said that mourning after a mate can put them in jeopardy of predators and that was clearly the case with the opportunist crow muscling in on an easy meal.
Although I meant well, maybe I shouldn’t have interfered. Perhaps in my clumsy way I saved the living dove from danger as it tried to protect its dead mate, but perhaps I cheated it of closure, saying goodbye and letting go.
I read that a dove mates for life but will seek another if they are rendered alone, but I’m not so sure they all do. We have dozen of doves in the yard at all times, but there is one odd fellow who is always alone. It sits on the peak of our house roof and makes the most mournful sound, seemingly cooing out its woes to the countryside. While all the others are in pairs, it sits by itself and I’ve often wondered what its story is as I stop to listen to its mournful song.........