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AROUND HOME : Notes on Hooked Rugs, Front Doors, Cooing Doves and Restaurant-Supply Stores : 'Hoo Cuka Roo'

April 10, 1988|WILLIAM JORDAN

ANYONE WHO LIVES near trees, tall shrubs or telephone poles--in other words, most of us--will have a hard time sleeping later than about 6 a.m. this time of year. You lie there in bed, clutching those last, luscious moments of sleep and . . . .

"Who cooks for you!?" is the problem. In what is best described as a gurgling coo (although one irate homeowner calls it the sound of a soprano pig), a persistent noise infiltrates the subconscious. Dreams evaporate. "Goorga Goo."

Muttering, residents peer out the window and see what looks like two small drab pigeons sitting on the telephone lines. Although there are some subtle shades of pinkish-tan on the birds' breasts and hints of blue on their heads, the overall impression is a dull, uniform brown except for one distinctive marking: a large, square patch of white spots on a black background across the back of the neck. These are Chinese spotted doves. They have inhabited the Los Angeles Basin since about 1920.

The larger of the two birds perching on the telephone cable is clearly excited by the smaller. He sidles toward her and, when about a foot away, turns sideways. Then he raises his head, bends his bill downward and bows with a quick, exaggerated lunge at her feet. Again and again he repeats this bobbing ritual of love, and with each bow, a loud, gurgling "Who cooks for you?" fills the neighborhood.

This is known as the "display call," and it occurs with special intensity in the spring when males try to attract mates and lure them into permanent domestic bliss. But after considering this pitch for several seconds, the smaller bird apparently decides this is an offer she can refuse. As he sidles closer for an answer, she leaps up in the middle of a "goorga goo" and flies off. But as nearby residents know, he will try again tomorrow morning.

DR

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