Wednesday, 23 May 2012

New babies in the cote - with a difference!

May 23rd '12

This is blog no. 3 for the same date, so if you haven't read blogs 2 and 1, which will be below this one, then you may want to catch up on them first!

This one will be all about my new babies, hatched in the dovecote two weeks ago. Above is their parents, the pure white doves, Sky and Summer. They are not ringed and except when they are attending to their babies are virtually impossible to distinguish from the other doves. I find this difficult as I like to know my mummy and daddy doves and give them special treatment i.e. extra peanuts!

18 days to the day after Summer first spent the night alone in the dovecote, I found the first egg shell on the patio. My first baby had hatched! 18 days is the normal incubation period for pigeons, and I had marked 'hatching day' on my calender. I waited all day and was rewarded in the evening. I had just popped into my shed kitchen and when I came out a minute later, there was the shell on the patio, just like that! I expected to see the other egg shell the next day, but didn't so I wasn't sure if there would be two babies - which is usual - or a singleton - which is not unusual. My blog readers may remember that my lovely pair last summer's first hatching produced a single squab - Fairy - and the other egg, when opened, proved to be a dud.

In the first few days of the squab's life, there is not much chance of getting a peep as the parent birds take it in turns to tend the baby in the cote, and when one takes over babysitting duty, he or she joins the parent in the cote, which only leaves when the other comes in. The hen does the long night duty, and when she comes out in the morning the first thing she does is relieve herself, and the result is the very large 'hen poo' - (sorry if you're squeamish - I find anything to do with the doves interesting!)

Hen dove poo

Above you can see the two tiny babies snuggling into Summer's breast

To take the above photo, I stood on the stepladder, some distance away from the cote. The babies - and yes I was so happy to see there ARE two of them! - are about three/four days old (May 12th)

Here one baby is reaching up to Summer (or Sky) and the other one is probably tucked away behind her.

The first chance I got to take a proper photo was when Sky and Summer started leaving the babies alone in the cote for short periods - while they sat and sunned themselves on the nearby roof.

The babies are about 6/7 days old here and can you see what is unusual about them? The one nearest to us in the top photo is distinctly darker than the one behind. I've had several pairs of white doves nesting in the cote since I first put it up - Pax & Persephone, John & Lily, Hope & Glory and Flash  & Omo - all pure white doves, and all had pure white babies. So why have Sky and Summer, also pure white doves, had a dark baby? I wondered if it was a 'throwback' but when I consulted my book it said that EPCs (extra pair copulation) was very common, and so maybe the dark baby is not Sky's offspring after all! As far as I am concerned it is viva la difference, and as long as the doves feed both babies then there are no worries at all.

Blonde & brunette squabs! - 7 days old

By day 11, the babies are getting quite big and feisty. When I take a look at them now, the white one - probably the oldest by 24 hours or so - rears up and 'snaps' at me.

The dark one has some white in her plumage, and as you can see both babies still have the fuzzy yellow down on their heads. The 'pigeon pair' are supposed to be male born first, and female born second, but it doesn't always work out that way.

The babies look pretty big here, but you can't judge their size very well out of context. I haven't taken them out of the cote, but reckon they are about as big as my cupped hands.

Other doves are interested in the cote. Flash, last year's daddy dove - sadly killed at the beginning of 2012 -would never have allowed other doves near the cote like this, when he had babies. I'd love it though if several pairs, lived and bred in my cote. Well, we shall see what happens....

A now - a cat among the pigeons!!! - though I hope not! Our neighbours had to relocate back to Africa and couldn't take their cat with them. So we have adopted her. She's a pretty tabby, a bit of a scaredy-cat and currently hiding under a sofa in the spare room. She's never hunted the doves before, despite only living across the yard so I'm hoping it will all work out. Here she is still in her hiding place.

And to finish my blog, here the white baby stood up for his or her two week old portrait

And later in the day, when they had moved round  in the nest, I got the dark one's 2 week old picture. The days are approximate as it's impossible to know exactly when they hatched.

I do have names for them, but they won't be given them til their ringing and naming day. Do leave a comment and let me know what you think of my squabs. I think they are gorgeous!

To be continued.....


Fennie said...

I think the squabs, like most young birds except day old chicks or ducklings are ugly but no less interesting for that and full marks to you for being such an attentive aunty to them. Now, what do they feed on to make them grow so fast? I did ask you once about pigeon milk (was this something to do with Cloud's tummy?) and you did answer me but I have forgotten what you said. When can the squabs fly? And how come they don't die of cold in the draughty dovecote without any feathers (or very few?). Fascinating! And thanks for sharing.

Faith said...

Wikipedia says it so much better than me Fennie, so I have cut and pasted as follows: - Crop milk is a secretion from the lining of the crop of parent birds that is regurgitated to young birds. They are found among all pigeons and doves where they are referred to as pigeon milk. Crop milk is also produced by flamingos and some penguins.

Crop milk bears little resemblance to mammalian milk, being a semi-solid substance somewhat like pale yellow cottage cheese. It is extremely high in protein and fat and contains more of it than cow or human milk.[4]It has also been shown to contain anti-oxidants and immune-enhancing factors. [5] Both male and female adult birds produce crop milk and share in the feeding and care of the young.Pigeon's milk begins to be produced a couple of days before the eggs are due to hatch. The parents may cease to eat at this point in order to be able to provide the squabs (baby pigeons and doves) with milk uncontaminated by seeds, which the very young squabs would be unable to digest. The baby squabs are fed on pure crop milk for the first week or so of life. After this the parents begin to introduce a proportion of adult food, softened by spending time in the moist conditions of the adult crop, into the mix fed to the squabs, until by the end of the second week they are being fed entirely on softened adult food.

Pigeons normally lay two eggs. If one egg fails to hatch, the surviving squab gets the advantage of a supply of crop milk sufficient for two squabs, and by the end of the first week it is almost as big as two "normal" squabs would be.

Now back to me - Cloud's tummy had nothing to do with cropmilk!!! She was probably attacked by a hawk. The squabs will be able to fly at very roughly 32-35 days old. They don't die of cold because the dovecote isn't draughty for a start, the 'pigeon holes' are sort of L shaped inside with a tucked away bit at the back, and the parents don't leave then til they can thermo-regulate. Also they've got more feathers than you think!

Calico Kate said...

Coo! What a fascinating trio of blogs Faith. Love the photos of the babes. Looking forward to seeing what you're calling them. Hopefully something appropriately Diamond Jubilee-ish! Elizabeth & Phillip? Britannia?

Faith said...

Ah Ck, yes, they have been named and it will be in my next blog which will be soon I hope!

David Riewe said...

We rescued a baby dove back on 5/4. It had gotten out of its nest, which we think was built somewhere along the main drag at University North Texas, and was in the middle of the road being attacked by grackles. We have been feeding it bird formula from the pet store, served at 105 F. Over the last few days he has started eating small seed. Between caring for this small white tip dove and seeing your blog I want to expand on our present bird houses and see if we can get dove to nest where we can observe. Currently we have about 20 that eat at our feeders daily and roost in the trees at night. I just never see where they build there nest.

Faith said...

Well done for rescuing the dove David. I'll be interested to hear how it gets on. I should think you will be able to rear it. I don't know grackles and white tip doves so will have to look them up!