The doves have been much in evidence on the bird feeder these days and this is out of character. They are ground feeders. Perhaps in cities we can modify this to say that they are ledge feeders. They simply are not built for the gymnastics of a small, swinging window feeder. Indeed, studying their body shape and listening to them land and take off, I sometimes wonder they can get airborne at all.
The feeder has a narrow-ish tray and an overhanging roof. It swings from a bracket on the house. There is not much room for error when coming in for a landing. The smaller birds such as the chickadees, sparrows, nuthatches and finches all manage it with ease. As do the sleeker, somewhat larger birds like the cardinals.
When a dove decides to give the feeder a try, there is the definite impression that it hauling itself up using the dove equivalent of arms, legs, knees, elbows and chin. Rather like a desperate attempt to get over a high wall when being chased by bad guys. Or, like me in high school PE class, when were onto the gymnastics unit and the uneven parallel bars loomed in front of me.
And once on the feeder, the dove finds there is really no room to bend its head to pick up seeds; that it is very awkward to turn around, and in fact, it is going to be very difficult to get off without falling. Once again, remembering my interactions with those unyielding parallel bars, I can feel her terror. She has a look about her that might have been an echo of mine during C block PE class when told to run and leap over the vaulting horse.
This morning there were two doves attempting the feeder. They had either tried a direct landing on the narrow rim before, or they had simply assessed the situation and decided on a different approach. He landed on the top of the bracket, where he appeared to be spotting for his mate, who was perched just below, on the cover of the feeder. She was determined to find her way to the seeds, which were seemingly within reach. She would stretch out one foot and tentatively put it down, as if contemplating walking down the cover just far enough to lean over and pick up a seed. But then, the feeder would sway and tip, and she had to cope with her perch suddenly assuming a distinct downward slant. So she would do a quick step backwards. And try again. She spent a considerable time doing this two-step and no business resulted.
I am in total sympathy with her. Back in high school PE class, I never knew exactly where my body was in space, and I preferred the surface I was standing on to be level and stable. Any activity that required me to move my arms and legs fairly rapidly, while keeping my balance and retrieving a ball that was hurtling in my direction was bound to end badly. If I was told to kick the ball, I might intercept it, but never quite in the way intended. I could no more hit a softball or dive for a volleyball than the PE teacher could speak French or write a grammatical sentence.
We had two different skill sets, the teacher and I; we resided at opposite ends of the bell curve and found it difficult to understand one another. I got no thrills in running around like a crazed mustang after a ball, which was as likely to trip me as not. She interpreted my instinct for self-preservation as being a lazy slacker.
The things that I was mildly good at such as badminton (not so much speed involved and if I missed, the birdie wasn’t going to kill me) or archery (no speed necessary, just patience; I could beat the jocks when it came to putting an arrow dead center), we only had for one or two classes before going back to the “real sports”, the ones that involved hurtling through space.
I don’t fault my doves for continuing to try. In fact, I admire them for their bravery and persistence. It would never have occurred to me to continue leaping for the bars or throwing myself at the horse or standing in the way of a speeding ball unless absolutely forced to. Sooner or later, these doves are bound to see the common sense of this, as well. This is why I always make sure there is plenty of seed under the feeder – on the nice flat paving blocks that no one can fall off of.