For almost 20 years I have worked at my dining room table. Now that I finally have an office, made possible by the flight of my own young who have left to build their nests, I still return to this comfortable spot where I have written tens of thousands of words.

I like this spot because of the window view -- when the words won't come, I turn my gaze to the desert willow tree in the parkway, and watch the birds as they come and go. Each season has different patterns, and after nearly two decades of watching this spot, I am quick to notice changes. Yesterday, for the first time, I noticed two doves perched on a branch. The doves looked a little different from the ones I'm used to seeing in my backyard and on my neighbor's roof, so I decided to google and figure out what they were.

It turns out these doves are Eurasian Collared Doves. Despite their beautiful symbolism, peaceful doves paired on a shared branch, the reason they are here is not so beautiful. These birds are members of an invasive species that has been making serious headway in North America, filling niches that other native dove species once inhabited. 

The problem of invasive species in Albuquerque is nothing new -- who in this city has not been vexed by the ubiquitous seedlings of the Siberian elm that pop up everywhere, or appreciated the beautiful pink feathery fronds of the tamarisk salt cedar in the bosque? The assumption is that invasive species are bad because they spread quickly and exploit specialized niches that may be the only natural habitat for some species. This in turn, can wreak havoc with the delicate balance of an ecosystem. (Witness the Rio Grande silvery minnow.)

But it is difficult to hold in one's thoughts simultaneously the admiration for a species' beauty and the dire warning heralded by the arrival of that species -- or at least, I find this a tricky reconciliation. Your mileage may vary.

Instead, I found my thoughts leaping from the color of the Eurasian collared dove -- a muted brown-grey with undertones of pink, and connecting it to the pink of the Sandias at sunset. And leaping again to a classic medieval text on love "The Ring of the Dove" by the Spanish Islamic philosopher Ibn-Hazm, and his commentary on two kinds of love: falling in love at first sight and on falling in love after long association.

Ibn-Hazm writes:


True love is not a flower

That springeth in an hour;

Its flint will not strike fire

At casual desire.


Love is an infant rare

Begotten, slow to bear;

Its lime must mingle long

Before its base is strong.


And then not soon will it

Be undermined, and split;

Firm will its structure stand,

Its fabric still expand.


This truth is readily

Confirmed, because we see

That things too quickly grown

Are swiftly overthrown.


Mine is a stubborn soil

To plough with arduous toil,

Intractible indeed

To tiller and to seed.


But once the roots begin

To strike and thrive therein,

Come bounteous rain, come drought,

The lusty stem will sprout.


The invasive species arrives and quickly takes root where it alights, much like love at first sight. The native species carves out its specialized niche over time, resembling the love of long association. The pair of Eurasian doves on my chilopsis linearis desert willow, brash invaders perched on a native tree, push this metaphor still further. 

As I open the front door to get a closer look at their collared band, the two birds fly off together -- crossing the street only to rest on the power line that delivers the juice to my machine as I blog and send missives, possibly of love, to one of long association. 

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Comment by Phil_0 on March 16, 2015 at 11:36am

I'm probably overstating the case, but as an (anecdotal) benchmark of climate change Albuquerque's fluctuating dove populations are flattering. When I was in high school 25 years ago mourning doves were ubiquitous in Albuquerque...there are far fewer of them today. White wing doves occasionally made their way into the city, but for the most part were limited to southern areas of the state. You saw them at the Bosque del Apache, but generally no further north. Now they're by far the most common native species. And now the collared doves - which were introduced into the US via Florida and the Caribbean and have steadily worked their way north and west - are increasingly common.

Comment by Debby S on March 17, 2015 at 7:08am

Doves and Pigeons eat weed seeds. Hawks eat doves and pigeons. Everyone gains something. Recently, under my finch feeder here downtown, I have noticed as many as 6 mourning doves at one time, up to 2-3 white winged doves at once, and 2-3 pigeons. I'd love to see the delicate Inca Doves here, but have only seen them, and then rarely, on south Yale Ave near the cemetery. I've also seen collared doves in that area but also near Tingley Beach and east to about 10th Street (south of Central). I can only speak for what I've seen though; they are probably in many other areas. Whenever I see any of these birds I'm happy because it will mean an increase in their predators, and I like to watch Cooper's and other hawks as well.

Comment by Debby S on March 19, 2015 at 5:38pm

March 19, about 5:30pm, just saw and photographed a collared dove under my feeder, here near 6th and Lead, so they're edging into my neighborhood. Tuesday morning around 9:15 I saw and photographed a young Cooper's hawk in a tree maybe... 200? yards (and an apartment unit) from where I just now saw the CD. The hawk had eaten breakfast and was sitting on some of the remains, watching the area, looking content and competent for a youngster. I took plenty of pics, so maybe he'll (he was small, so probably male) stick around and eat more doves and pigeons -- until the Kingbirds come back. The KBs will harass him because it's fun, they are fast flying bug catchers, and they think they are the policebirds of every neighborhood. If robins see the hawk, they will shout warnings.


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