I have been reading Theodore Roosevelt’s “Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail.” It is an interesting read about life in the North Dakota badlands in the 1880s. In chapter three, The Home Ranch, Roosevelt describes the quiet surrounding the ranch:
“There are few sounds to break the stillness. From the upper branches of the cottonwood trees overhead, whose shimmering, tremulous leaves are hardly ever quiet, but if the wind stirs at all, rustle and quiver and sigh all day long, comes every now and then the soft, melancholy cooing of the mourning dove, whose voice always seems far away and expresses more than any other sound in nature the sadness of gentle, hopeless, never-ending grief.”
Most everyone is familiar with mourning doves. They are permanent residents over much of the United States, but here in North Dakota, as well as a few other northern states and Canada, they are summer residents. They can produce up to six broods of one to three young a year, perhaps two of which are produced during the summer months here in North Dakota. About one half of their rather crude nests are constructed in trees, while the other half is constructed on the ground.
I suspect that a few among us do not realize that these doves are not doves of the morning (as in the time of day), but rather like mourning doves. Their call, as Roosevelt notes, really does sound like they are a state of mourning. But it might surprise you to learn that biologists have discovered that most of these common calls are sung by single males. Apparently, they need to find a mate!
It should be easy to hear the call of the mourning dove this summer if one just takes the time. So, consider getting out and making a point of really listening to their call. It is one of the more interesting sounds of North Dakota summers. You might even start imagining what it would have been like to sit along the Little Missouri River in the 1880s and hear the mournful call of the mourning dove. And if you are looking for some interesting reading, consider Roosevelt’s “Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail.”