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ON THE WINGS OF A DOVE

By Charles Kennedy

A young girl in my hometown (who will be Julie in this article but uses another name in real life) dreamed about a bird. Early the next morning her dad came into her bedroom to kiss her goodbye before he left for work. Julie, more asleep than awake began telling him about a white bird that was near his workshop and cautioned him not to hurt the bird when he was leaving. When dad returned home in the afternoon Julie came running with the news that she had found the bird from her dream. In the grass next to the workshop he discovered a beautiful snow-white bird.

Wow! A prophetic dream! An innocent child dreams about a white bird and the next day it appears. This has a very supernatural feel to it. Could be just a coincidence but on the other hand...I guess it depends on how you feel about signs and such.

Julieís mother related the dream story when she called to tell me "thereís a gorgeous white bird in our yard and we are so excited that we just had to share it with somebody."

I asked for details and she began to describe a pure white bird with light colored legs and beak and a pink eye. She was describing a classic albino. I asked her if she could tell what kind of bird it was and she answered no. Then I jumped to a big wrong conclusion!

I had been getting many calls about white birds for several weeks. They all turned out to be albino Mockingbirds. There were 14 of them in all. This was very unusual. Albinism (lack of colored pigment in the external skin) occurs in all forms of life including birds but is generally rare. In the period of a few weeks I had seen more albino birds than in my entire life prior to then.

Julieís family lives close to the neighborhoods where I had seen most of these, so it was not unreasonable to assume that this bird was an albino Mockingbird. Julieís mom was excited. I was thinking ho-hum, another albino mocker. I suggested she think Mockingbird and have another look and call me back.

In a little while dad called with this observation, "I donít think itís a Mockingbird. There are two other birds feeding it and they arenít Mockingbirds." I woke up! Thatíll teach me to take Mother Nature for granted. I made an appointment to have a look.

When I arrived the next afternoon Julie and her mom were out in the yard. They greeted me with bad news; "We canít find him! We have been looking all day. We are afraid he has flown away or the cat might have gotten him." I helped with the search for another hour. No luck!

"Have you made any pictures?" was my next question. They didnít have snapshots but had taken quite a bit of video footage. I went in the house with them and took a look at it. Dad was right; it was not a Mockingbird.

The bird in the video intrigued me. During the night I was treated to my own dream visions of a white bird. The following day, anticipating another fulfilled prophecy, I returned to the street where Julie lives for a second look. I parked and walked about the neighborhood for a bit. I didnít see the bird, but soon realized that my search had taken me to the corner of the street where I spent my childhood. It looks pretty much the same as it did in 1950. As I stared at the old house my grandfather built in 1936, the place I will forever think of as home, a flood of youthful faces from the fifties flashed before my eyes. My childhood friends, and what a gang we were!

As my mind drifted back through the years, Julieís "Dream Bird" stirred another memory. I thought of my family on a fifties Saturday night gathered around a little black radio listening to the Grand Old Opry, and in particular an old gospel song belted out by a long forgotten country singer.

As I turned to walk back to the car lost in a summer reverie, the child that still lives deep down inside went tearing off down the street on a Western Flyer bicycle, headed for Mamaís house and singing at the top of a little boy voice " On the wings of a snow white dove, He sends His pure, sweet love, A sign from above, On the wings of a dove."

There are 5 species of doves found in Alabama.
If you would like to learn more about them click here


Charles Kennedy lives and watches birds in his hometown of Greenville, Alabama. He is the President and founder of the Alabama Wildbird Conservation Association.

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ALABAMAíS DOVES

There are more than 400 species of birds on the "Official" Alabama Bird List. Maybe you didnít know there was any such thing as the "Official" Alabama Bird List. There truly is, and it has been published for many years. The list is compiled by the Alabama Ornithological Society and is based on bird sightings from backyard birdwatchers, hunters, ornithologists, professors and other folks who spend time observing the natural world and the critters that live there.

There are 5 species of doves on the "Official" Alabama Bird List. Three are species that are native to North America and two are imports from Europe.

The Native Americans Are....

Mourning Dove - This is presently the most common member of the dove family in Alabama and is a year-round resident throughout the state. Mostly gray in color, about the size of a Mockingbird, and given to soft cooing, Mourning Doves are known to backyard birdwatchers as a regular visitor to birdfeeders and to hunters as an elusive target over a corn or peanut field on October afternoons. The Mourning Dove is the only member of the dove family classified as a game bird in Alabama.Common Ground- Dove

Common Ground-Dove - The "official" status of this small dove in Alabama is usually stated as uncommon to rare, and local. This means that there ainít a whole lot of them. The local part means that sometimes you may get lucky and stumble on a whole passel of them. This is most likely to happen in a peanut field in Southeast Alabama. Turtle-Doves, as they are sometimes called, are about half the size of a Mourning Dove and have a rusty red patch beneath the wings which is very noticeable on a flying bird. The breast has a scaly look to it. Their call is quite different from the cooing of the Mourning Dove. It sounds sort of like "hoowup", "hoowup" and is likely to be repeated for long uninterrupted periods.

White-winged Dove - There are millions of White-winged Doves in the southwestern states and Mexico. They like living in the desert and are classified as a game bird there. There is also a permanent but small population in central and south Florida. They are rare in Alabama and are a sensational find for a group of avid birdwatchers. The species is considered to be a vagrant (stray) in Alabama and the great majority of records are from Fort Morgan and Dauphin Island. Nearly all inland sightings are of birds taken on dove hunts. A single bird was observed hanging out with Mourning Doves on the golf course at the Greenville Country Club for about a month in the Spring of 1999. White-winged doves are somewhat bigger than a mourning Dove and have a white patch on the wings which can be seen on perched birds. There is also a white patch on the tail which is easily seen on a flying bird.

The European imports are....

Rock Dove - This is the common pigeon, well known to anybody who has ever spent a few minutes in a city park. They live in rocky wild places in their native Europe but have become semi-wild in America. They are found throughout Alabama and are for the most part town birds but are seen in wild places as well. They are fond of nesting under interstate highway bridges. They can become a pest about buildings and park statues and city governments occasionally are required to take measures to reduce their numbers.

Eurasian Collared-Dove - This is the "new kid in town". Collared-Doves made it into South Florida from the Bahamas in the mid 1980ís. They did it on their own. The first "official" record of a EurasianEurasian Collared-Dove Collared-Dove in Alabama was from Fort Morgan in the Spring of 1991. Since that time they have spread throughout the state and are likely to be seen in large flocks. They are more likely to be seen in wild places than Rock Doves. If the current rate of population growth continues they may be the most common dove in Alabama in a few years. Collared-Doves fall between a Morning Dove and Rock Dove in size. They are pale gray or occasionally creamy white in color. They have a distinctive black mark on each side of their neck which looks like a collar. These marks are the basis for their name. Their call is a fairly loud "coo KOOO coo" and is not likely to be mistaken for a Mourning Dove. The Eurasian Collared-Dove has not been classified as a game bird in Alabama but indications are that a number are being taken on dove hunts.

Note: A Eurasian-Collared Dove look-a-like has been recorded in Alabama. The Ringed Turtle-Dove, another European species, has been observed in small numbers in Montgomery and Mobile. RTDís do not seem to do well in the US without regular human handouts and it is presumed that these two small flocks of birds no longer exist. The species is not on the Alabama Bird List for this reason and any reports of Ringed Turtle-Doves would have to be substantiated by an ornithologist or recognized competent field observer to be accepted by the Alabama Bird Records Committee.

How would you like to become a "Citizen Scientist"?

The Alabama Bird Records Committee is interested in receiving reports of Common Ground-Doves anywhere in Alabama and reports of White-winged Doves anywhere other than Fort Morgan or Dauphin Island. You can make your report to the Alabama Wildbird Conservation Society (334) 382-2680 or 1 800 382-2696 or by sending email to awca@bamabirds.com

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