Saturday, 27 September 2008

BIG Problem

101 doves! (and Spirit on the ground). Dove food - Economy on the left, Conditioner on the right.

Thursday 2nd October 08

(Warning: Blog contains photo of dead dove (at end)

There are too many doves around here! One day I counted 110! Any suggestions as to how to reduce the numbers gratefully received. The obvious solution is to just stop feeding them, but I just cannot do that. My neighbour says don't worry they will just fly off and find other food - but would they? Find food , I mean. I may have mentioned in the blog before that, a while ago, I saw something in a newspaper about pigeon corpses in the Trafalgar Square area of London being examined, and found to have completely empty stomachs - in fact, they had starved to death. I find that very sad. I used to enjoy feeding the pigeons in Trafalgar Square and taking my children to do the same. You could buy little bags of food from the authorised sellers - probably not 'tuppence a bag' but cheap enough, and then the pigeons whirled round you, feeding off your hands and even landing on your head. Rats with wings or not, none of us died from pigeon germs and I always made sure we took wipes, and washed our hands thoroughly at the first opportunity. The phrase 'rats with wings' was coined by Woody Allen, I believe. Of course I totally disagree. Rats definitely do not have the charm and cheekiness of pigeons.

I am not feeding the 100 + doves any more food than I was feeding 40, but it is very hard to resist. I feed them in the morning as soon as I get up - none too early, between 7-8 am and then I feed them again in the afternoon. The time depends on what I am doing but between 2pm and 4pm. If I'm going out, then I fill the pans before I go. BUT I have to confess that I will throw a few handfuls into the garden to any doves that are scratching around. To a certain extent I had to do this, for Spirit's sake (when she was alive - see update further on in blog) Doves like feeding together and I wouldn't have liked her to be alone all day. I also have a lame dove I call Limpet (limp pet!) arriving in the garden at around 6pm when all the other doves have left. I think maybe he has been ostracised by the rest of the flock - he is certainly hungry when he arrives, poor thing.

I'm hoping that I will find the strength to gradually reduce the feed I put on the island for the feral flock so that they will disperse to other hunting grounds. My neighbour says they won't. He says they will all turn up and fight over the food even if I only put out a cupful! But I can't starve the poor things, can I? It is a difficult problem for me as I would ideally like the feral flock completely gone before I start again with a new little flock of my own next May or June.

But the doves are SO hungry, poor things. They haunt the shed roof, the wire, the arch in the garden like little ghosties. Even one day, leaving the lid of the metal bin, I caught some who had dived inside! They will even land pecariously on the swinging house bird feeder and steal the bread and seeds put out for the little birds. What am I going to do?

I will welcome any sensible comments or suggestions on this problem.


Update on Spirit:

Spirit is dead. RIP beautiful bird. She was not at all keen to come out of the dovecote on Tuesday 30th Sept, and I had to haul her out. When on the ground I could see that one of her feet was crippled in some way; all the toes curling in. This made it difficult for her to walk and she spent much of the day sitting. It poured in the afternoon and when I got home from taking my dog to the groomers, poor Spirit was hiding under the foliage from a pot of overgrown petunias, sitting on the ground, bedraggled and dirty. I brought her inside and wrapped her in two dry warm flannels and held her to warm her up. Then I put her to bed early in the dovecote with some food, and a little water in a jam jar lid.

Photo shows crippled foot. Spirit in trug on her last morning - she couldnt stand.

On Wednesday 1st October I again had to reach into the dovecote and bring Spirit out. Both feet were now crippled and she was unable to stand. I put her in my hay filled garden trug, and tried to tempt her with food and water but she wouldn't eat or drink. As I already had a vet appointment made for my dog, I took her along with me, knowing of course that she would have to be put down. I would've kept her if she could eat and drink, but the last thing I wanted was her to starve to death. My vet is lovely, a kind gentle man, unlike some of the brusque vets I have met in the past. He stroked Spirit but said, of course, that nothing could be done for her. Though she was a feral dove, I said that I had been looking after her and considered her to be mine and therefore had to pay for the euthanasia (£13 plus £2.28 VAT = £15.28 total). I could have taken her ring off before we went and just said she was a feral dove found in the garden but she was mine and I didn't want to deny her as I had had a month of her delightful company. We will miss seeing her little face peeking out of the dovecote.

I brought her body home with me, and, putting on gloves, examined her. I just couldn't see what was wrong with her wing - it seemed just the same as the other one. All the mites had gone too. Her little body, wrapped by her wings, stayed warm for ages. I picked some flowers and left her in the trug for a while, before giving her a watery funeral in the river.

RIP Spirit


Rings - I ordered rings and they have arrived. I ordered 100 green rings and 100 mixed colours - pink, red, blue, purple and yellow from Solway Feeders Ltd. in Scotland. I found them on the internet and they seemed to have the right sized ring for the doves (pigeon size 8mm). Unfortunately when the order arrived they had missed out the purple rings, but an email soon got a polite response and the purple rings arrived very shortly afterwards. They also sell other products suitable for doves -

These rings are more difficult to put on than the original rings I had (couldnt get any of those). I practised on Spirit before her funeral. It is better to have two people doing the job - one to hold the dove and the other to ring it.

A person called Lee commented on my last blog and ask me to email her (him?) and I have done so. I'm assuming she is a lady - anyway, she is getting a dovecote and two pairs of doves very soon. so CONGRATULATIONS Lee I am sure they will bring you lots of pleasure (and probably a few problems too!). I am looking forward to hearing from you again.

The End.


KittyB said...

No idea what to do about all the doves, but the pictures of Spirit are beautiful, poor thing.

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

Tricky one Faith. I think you have answered your own question really - if you are worried that by not feeding them they will starve then you will continue to feed them. The chances are they would fly off and find other food at the moment - less so when the Winter arrives. The pigeons in Trafalgar square will have a much harder time finding food than their country cousins. If you continue to feed will that continue to attract higher numbers of doves though and what would the impact be on the rest of the bird population in your area as they would all be competing for food after the food you had put out had been eaten. I think the other concern is that if you have high numbers of doves then there is a much higher risk of them bringing infection into the area which would be very bad for you if you wanted to have your own doves again in the Spring. You could always try slowly cutting the feed down and then maybe do every other day etc and then stop to see what happens.

Did the vet say what was wrong with Spirit. I have seen the thing with the feet before and usually signifies a stroke - which could well have been why she couldn't fly and then she had a series of little strokes - but at least her last month was as comfortable and happy as possible.

Inthemud said...

Crumbs Faith! That is so sad, poor Spirit.

But where have all these doves come from? seems such a huge increase in numbers.

If you stop feeding them totally would they go away? Surely if they are feral they are used to finding wild food?

But no knowledge of Doves so no advice to offer. Have you spoken to RSPB?
Update us please.

Angel said...

Poor Faith. What a dilemma.

I am so sorry-I can't give you any real constructive advice about the doves. How bizarre.

I wanted to say how beautiful Spirit was. So strange-I have started geting Doves in the garden as well as pigeons-very delicate slender grey ones, they are very pretty.

Good suggestions from WW but agree with E-recommend you contact RSPB or RSPCA for best advice.

Hope you get some guidance that helps. Know how much they mean to you.

Withy Brook said...

I agree with WW - I am worried about too many birds feeding in one area and risk of disease. This could kill off the ferals as well as making it impossible for you to re-stock. My instinct would be to stop feeding. Being in the country (as opposed to Trafalgar Square) they will quickly give up and go looking elsewhere - but the longer you take to stop, the more they will get dependent on your food. I know how hard this would be for you, but feel sure it is the kindest answer in the long term. Thinking of you and keep us posted.

Cait O'Connor said...

My instinct would be to stop feeding too and maybe they would move off, they will survive if they are wild.

They are obviously going to hang around if there is such good food on tap.