Guest Post & Photos by Jill McMurchy
Guess what? Our sweet, special little Ringneck dove Bell isn’t a girl! He’s a boy! (You can see Bell’s rescue story here.) Thank you to Palomacy volunteer Joe “Dove Daddy” Knight for questioning the (incorrect) assumption that we had been working under for so long. Based on the shape of Bell’s pelvic girdle, he recognized what we hadn’t, and then confirmed it by donating a DNA gender test. Bell is a male dove.
Knowing this helped us realize that the tension in his relationship with Reed, his longtime companion (and most likely his brother), wasn’t due only to Bell’s health problems, but rather also stemmed from them remaining rivals rather than becoming mates. (Same sex pairs of doves do sometimes bond and become very devoted mates but not always and, if not, their relationship can be frustrating.) We decided to try separating them and introducing them to female doves so that they could each develop the bond they had been seeking for so long.
Often we have a waiting list for single female doves but we were fortunate this time. We have a flock of doves we call the Dove Beans, being fostered for us by Andy’s (Rescue) Pet Shop in San Jose. They were surrendered as a nameless flock and so needing seven names in a hurry, I named them all after beans- Azuki, Lima, Turtle, Pinto, Butterbean, Chickpea and Fava. We knew there were some single females in this flock and were hopeful we could find loving wives for both Bell and Reed.
Bell’s lingering neurological issue means he needs a special, quiet home and a gentle mate. I’d keep him fostered with me but healthy Reed would most likely be thrilled to join the Dove Bean flock and enjoy aviary life so I took him to Andy’s. The day I brought him, I sat and observed the flock, trying to figure out who would be a possible bride for Bell.
My eyes kept wandering over to Fava, a very delicate, wild-type colored hen. She seemed shy and sweet and I just had a feeling she was the one so I brought Fava home with me.
I kept her in a separate cage for two days so she could get used to Bell’s body movements. The torticollis causes him to twist and sometimes fall backward, but he rights himself pretty quickly now. She didn’t seem put off! I also watched for Bell’s interest in her as a bride. He went right to work trying to impress her! His sweet little broken coo was getting stronger and stronger and at times I thought he’d hurt himself with his very enthusiastic bow-cooing!
I put Fava in his cage (it was important that Bell stay in his own cage, he’s familiar with it and can show it off to her and is specially equipped for giving him comfort) and Bell went to town trying to impress. It didn’t take him long to make her realize he was ‘the one’!
So let’s all give Bell and Fava Bean a big round of applause and a hearty congratulations!
And there’s more great news for Bell & Fava: As of January 25th, they are home! I adopted them! Fava laid an egg for them on January 26 and Bell has been happily sharing egg-sitting duty with Fava. He is quite the devoted husband and nest builder! And funny thing, ‘Bell’ is a kind of bean too!
We’re keeping a close eye on dear Reed as well. He is living with the Dove Bean flock fostered at Andy’s and, while he isn’t yet married, we are hopeful that he will win a mate soon and that they will be as happy together as Bell & Fava are.
Note from Elizabeth Young, director of Palomacy
This was such a simple and yet incredibly important breakthrough for Bell and Reed! When I first brought Bell and Reed into our foster care over two years ago, I thought that Bell was female and that Reed was male and that they were a mated pair. Why I never questioned this assumption along the way, I’ll never know. It makes perfect sense in hindsight. I’m so grateful to our volunteer Joe for examining Bell and helping us to correct this error and to better provide for both his and Reed’s needs. Having a loving mate (rather than vying with a companionable rival) has been so good for Bell! He’s blossoming and while he is still challenged with neurological issues, he is a happier and more content dove. One of my favorite sayings is: No one of us is as smart as all of us. Thank goodness for the power of collective intelligence.