It is always a pleasure to watch wild creatures going confidently about their business without fear.

Some creatures and birds in our garden are surprisingly self-assured. Recently, when we were having coffee on our back deck, this young Laughing Dove in a nearby tree surprised us as it confidently preened, stretched, practiced walking up and down a branch, turning about and giving the impression it was dancing. Every so often it would pause and give us a penetrating look, as if gauging if it had our attention.


I wondered why such a young bird would be so composed around people. Perhaps its parents had raised it under our noses, while we were blithely unaware. In contrast to us, the young dove would have been super-aware and observant, and so we would likely be familiar and seemingly judged to be nonthreatening. How else to explain the young birds confident display in our presence?


A resident pair of Laughing Doves spends a lot of time in our garden and they have become increasingly tame. They no longer fly off at the slightest movement from us, as they spend time feeding on the lawn or sunning themselves even while we are watching. Perhaps these are the parents of this young dove?


Pigeons and doves are monogamous and both parents share in incubating the eggs and in feeding and raising their young after the eggs have hatched. All pigeons and doves produce crop milk (also known as pigeon milk) and feed the nestlings on this until they are weaned at about 10 days old.

Both parents begin producing crop milk about two days before the eggs hatch. The crop milk is a curd-like substance formed in fat-filled cells lining the crop. It is rich in protein and fats and also contains minerals and antibodies. Crop milk is essential to nestlings’ survival and development. The milk is fed to the babies by regurgitation.

Baby Laughing Doves are fed exclusively on crop milk for the first three days of their lives, and then the parents gradually add small seeds to this diet.  Flamingos and Emperor Penguins are the only species of bird other than pigeons and doves that produce crop milk.


As we watched, the young Laughing Dove practiced walking up and down the branch, twirling at each turnaround like a dancer


Sometimes it would take a brief rest, tucking its legs under itself, and regarding us intently. Here is a series of photos recording its “dance”, interspersed with it pausing to look at us, almost as if to check that we are paying attention





No its not singing, just pausing once again to check us out


I think this pose is reminiscent of Anna Pavlova 



Taking a final bow


Paul R. Ehrlich, David S. Dobkin, and Darryl Wheye. 1988. Bird Milk.

Science Alert. 2011. How pigeons produce ‘milk’.

Posted by Carol