It was eighty degrees outside, not bad for the middle of April, but a cold front was coming. Rain and thunderstorms would usher in freezing temperatures, so we were enjoying the weather while it lasted. Brad had built a flight cage last summer for our doves, so I decided to bring them outside to enjoy the warm day. Both birds flitted from perch to perch, relishing their freedom of movement and the warm breeze.
After a few hours, the kids and I went inside, leaving the birds to enjoy a few moments of fresh air before bringing them back to the confines of their cage. Diamond, our female, had seven eggs that needed to be incubated, but I figured a few hours break would be fine for her and her mate, Dickens, to relax before settling back into the stress of nesting. I didn't notice my daughter slip outside, until she ran inside yelling, "Dickens is gone!" Sure enough, Dickens was gone. He'd flown the coop, leaving Diamond behind. Bastard bird. While my kids called to him (attempting to mimic his coos), Brad and I scanned the trees, hoping to spot him. If he'd flown into the trees, there was no way we could get to him. The closest branches were twenty feet high, and he'd fly away if he saw us coming. "Oh, well," I muttered, making my way back inside. If a neighborhood cat didn't get to him first, the coming storm and cold front probably would. I knew it sounded harsh, but if he kicked it, it was his own fault. Birds are supposed to have senses about bad weather, leaving Dickens with no excuse for his behavior. He picked a heck of a day to escape. We left Diamond outside until dusk, hoping Dickens might hear her calls and come back on his own. We even left his cage door propped open overnight (Diamond being housed in a different cage inside), just in case he decided to use his tiny brain and come back.
I didn't sleep a wink that night. Between hearing the wind, rain, and thunder, I kept imagining that I heard Dickens calling from outside. His call is deeper pitched than Diamond's, so I knew it wasn't her. It wasn't him either, just my wishful thinking. I had a pet snake return after escaping once, so it wasn't impossible for Dickens to return. Not impossible, but not likely. Getting up every hour or so, I stuck my head out of the window, listening for some sound he'd returned. I searched for his body the next day, scanning the waterlogged backyard for gray and white. Nothing. The front yard yielded as much. No sign. His cage remained outside, the door propped open with a stick. I even scattered his birdseed on the ground close by. After two days, Diamond called, receiving no answer. She now sits on her seven eggs alone (Dickens used to sit on the nest with her), looking despondent. Maybe she doesn't care. I had to separate the two of them on numerous occasions after Dickens pecked at her eyes, bringing blood to the surface. Maybe he was a jerk of a bird and she was happy he was gone. No one can know, I guess.
I hope Dickens is okay, even if he was a terrible mate. His feet were always so warm when he perched on my finger, and he was always gentle with everyone. Hope still pulls at me that he'll return and make the kids (and me) happy. None the less, I hope he makes it out there in the "real" world of nature with all its perils.