Mourning doves are a common wild bird seen across North America. They are hunted by hawks and a long list of predators, including humans. Yet despite their position in the food web as a "fast food" item, mourning doves appear as one of the top ten most-counted bird species every year during the Great Backyard Bird Count.
In my own FeederWatch and Ebird counts, I always have mourning doves.
When I recently posted photos of a mourning dove nest with chicks, I was contacted by someone wanting to buy them.
This individual had rescued a young mourning dove, raised it as a pet, and now was looking for a mate for the captive bird.
While this person's intentions were to do good, they were crossing some important lines.
- It is illegal to keep native North American wild birds as pets. Around the world many species are endangered by unregulated or illegal collection for the pet trade.
- Young birds raised by humans, frequently are unable to socialize naturally with birds of their own kind and may never breed. (This is a constant issue with bird conservation programs and why such complicated efforts like feeding puppets are employed so that young birds never associate humans as their care-providers and/or parents.)
- Rescuing a wild creature means returning it to its normal, wild life whenever possible.
I have offered sanctuary to wild animals for short amounts of time; tree squirrel, California towhee, Allen's hummingbird. Success is seeing that animal living its life in the wild, even if that only means a few days.
The more I observe wild creatures, the less I want any creature to be a pet. Is it difficult to let a creature go back into the wild where it might be eaten by a predator or injured by humans? Yes.
But if you provide safe habitat, wild creatures will come and make use of the sanctuary you offer at the level they need and desire. I am spiritually uplifted watching the preying mantis youngsters emerge from their egg casing, witnessing the trials and challenges of the hummingbirds that I have rescued as they live their own natural lives. I do not need to own them. I don't want to own them. They all have important roles to play in a vibrant, healthy planet. I hope you can start to see the wild creatures around you in this way too.