Spring tests bird ingenuity and determination

2014-04-20T00:00:00Z 2014-07-03T11:24:36Z Spring tests bird ingenuity and determinationBy Bonnie Henry Special to the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

“Birds do it. Bees do it. Even educated fleas do it.”

— Cole Porter

Yeah, but do they have to be so messy? This time of year, the doves have definitely fallen in love — in the trees, on the fence line, and atop the light fixture on my front porch, where they insist on nesting.

For days, we tried shooing them away as they continued littering the spot by my front door with their twigs and sticks. I stuck a paper plate over the light. It blew off. So I taped the plate to the light.

The doves continued to build atop the plate. My husband pounded a few nails onto the plate. The doves merely wove their twigs around the nails. Not until my husband fashioned a cone made from rubber sheeting and taped it to the plate did the nest-building stop.

A few days later, the cone toppled to the ground, but by then, the doves had moved on to a neighbor’s light fixture. Sure as spring, however, I know they, or more likely their progeny, will be back in years to come.

It’s a call to nature we humans are helpless to thwart. Even so, I wonder how doves have managed to survive all these years, given their obvious bird brains. They’ve nested in my flowerpots — never mind that subsequent watering creates a soggy mess for their eggs. And they’ve nested in western-facing porches — scorching conditions for any young ones.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the doves — and the cooing sounds they make come the early morning light. If only they would keep their living arrangements more than 12 inches from my front door.

Ah, well, at least it’s love, not war. For that, we can depend on the hawks that swoop into our mesquite tree from time to time, grabbing whatever feathered creature it can for dinner. Trouble is, the kill and subsequent feasting also go on in our tree, sending feathery wisps of the victim all over our patio. It’s a cruel, cruel world.

More welcome are the hummingbirds that jam our feeder every winter, sometimes buzzing us as we loiter outside. But even they have abandoned us by now, preferring the salvia blossoms in the next-door neighbor’s yard. Who can blame them?

Not so can be said for the woodpeckers. At our former home in Oro Valley, they took a liking to a wooden porch post. We tried hot sauce. We tried scare tape. Finally, we tried just ignoring them.

It’s a different story at our summer home in Show Low, where the woodpeckers prefer to gorge on sugar water rather than wood. There, the hummingbirds have to hover beyond the feeders until the ’peckers have had their fill, before swooping in for a taste.

Yes, of course we’ve tried to hinder them, with feeders positioned far from the tree trunks and bristling with nails and other impediments. Nothing seems to work.

True story: I actually saw a woodpecker clinging to the tree trunk position, a small twig in his beak, and then sticking the end of the twig into one of the holes in the feeder. He then extracted the stick, tilted his head backward, and proceeded to let the nectar drip down the twig and into his mouth.

When it comes down to who’s smarter — doves or woodpeckers — the choice is obvious. And so far, the woodpeckers are not only outsmarting the doves, but also the humans.

Bonnie Henry’s column runs every other Sunday. Contact her at Bonniehenryaz@gmail.com.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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