Hunted to the tune of 18 to 25 million per year for meat and sport, the indomitable mourning dove is a prolific breeder who claims the title of the most abundant and widely distributed bird in North America, boasting a thriving population of around 400 million. Wearing a muted grayish-brown feather-coat, they quietly coo their way into the hearts of millions of backyard birders who delight in hosting this tranquil dove every spring. Dove parents mate for life, and their babies always return to their birthplace. To keep the whole family coming back year after year, offer shelter, a simple nesting cone, food, ample water and lots of brilliant sunflowers.
Cut off the points of the square piece of hardware cloth with the wire cutters and trim to form a circle. Cut to the center point of the circle and remove a 2- to 4-inch-wide pie-shaped wedge out of the circle.
Pull the two cut edges of the circle together and overlap them at least an inch to form a cone. Sew together by threading the copper wire through the holes in the outermost edge of the mesh every half inch or so, then pull tightly. Alternatively, insert twist ties every inch or so along the seam to close it securely.
File the tail end of the wire smooth with the emery board and poke the wire back through the last hole to secure it. Tuck any remaining wire flat against the cone. Cover the end of the wire with electrical tape or other waterproof tape. Ensure any sharp ends of twist ties, if that's how you're forming the cone, are folded under or covered with tape.
Check the entire seam to ensure the cone is securely closed. Fold over and tuck in the topmost cut edge of the cone to provide a smooth landing or perching edge.
Locate a partially shaded area with at least a few trees and ample shrub cover to mount the nesting cone. Climb a ladder and place the cone in the crotch of a tree, 6 to 16 feet above the ground, and attach it securely with 3 or 4 nails or screws.
Ensure the opening is not blocked by tree limbs. Mold the cone so it fits perfectly into the crook of the tree to form a secure platform for the birds' nesting materials. Fold the sharp bottom point of the cone against the tree.
Run your hand over the whole nesting cone to ensure it's completely smooth overall. Tuck under any sharp edges, or apply protective tape where necessary.
Items you will need
- 12-inch x 12-inch piece of 1/4- or 1/2-inch mesh hardware cloth
- Wire cutters
- Copper wire or twist ties
- Emery board or nail file
- Hammer or screwdriver
- Nails or screws
- Install the nesting cones in late February, March and April before the doves have chosen a nesting site.
- In addition to sunflowers, attract doves to your yard with millet, grass seed, cracked corn and other grains at the feeder. They also like bread crumbs.
- Doves find gardens full of clover seeds, ragweed, lamb's-quarters, wood sorrel, elderberry and pokeberry irresistible.
- Doves enjoy water for drinking and bathing, especially when it's in a ground-level pool or shallow basin.
- Salt blocks and grits are other dove favorites.
- Wear eye protection and gloves when cutting hardware cloth.
- Recruit help to hold the ladder as you ascend the tree to mount the nesting cone.
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