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Two doves in love made a home at Kansas City's downtown library. Their eggs are about to hatch

View is through a window. A dove can be seen sitting on a nest on a ledge of a building.
Carlos Moreno
/
KCUR 89.3
One of the doves nesting on the ledge of The Kansas City Public Library's central branch looks down on Broadway Boulevard on Friday, June 28, 2024.

Librarians at the downtown branch named the pair of mourning doves after Carrie Westlake Whitney, the "mother of the Kansas City Public Library," and her longtime companion Frances Bishop. Staff want visitors' help naming the two hatchlings.

Staff at the Kansas City Public Library downtown are waiting excitedly for some new arrivals: two eggs laid by a nesting pair of mourning doves.

Glenn Westra, a Technology Access Coach at the Central Branch, first noticed the birds about two weeks ago when he happened to glance outside his window.

“It was a chaotic day, and my desk was relocated in the middle of my shift … and when I was setting up, I saw this dove on a nest,” Westra said. “The dove was surprised to see me and I was surprised to see the dove.”

Westra grew up in Iowa, where he says he would often find baby birds and befriend them. So Westra knew what to do to earn the doves’ trust.

“This bird was in high stress, so I gave him a couple of slow blinks, and then I got a slow blink or two from him,” Westra says. “They seemed much more comfortable with everybody coming to the window and taking a picture of them ever since.”

The pair has since become a fixture on the library’s third floor. While many of the building’s windowsills are lined with spikes to keep birds from forming nests, the Reference Desk window isn’t — giving the doves plenty of space to guard their eggs during the day.

Jessie Caliman, another staff member, finds herself constantly visiting and watching the doves.

“I’m always sneaking around people going, ‘I’m sorry, I’m just checking on the bird. There’s a bird there, did you notice?”

Employees even voted on names for the two. Eventually, they settled on Carrie and Bishop — a nod to Pride Month and the library’s own history. The KCPL was founded in 1873 and has been celebrating its 150th anniversary.

Carrie, the female dove, is named after Carrie Westlake Whitney, the “mother of the Kansas City Public Library” and its first-ever director.

A dove looks down from its nest from outside a building window ledge.
Carlos Moreno
/
KCUR 89.3
The nesting pair of doves has been at the library for several weeks.

Whitney was first hired in 1881, when the library was still subscription-based. She abolished that method, making the library free and accessible to anyone who wanted to borrow a book, and grew the collection to almost 100,000 volumes. Whitney was demoted in 1911, however, after the Board of Education decided her position should be held by a man.

“She's become a part of our reference staff,” Caliman joked about Carrie the dove.

Bishop, the male dove, is named after Frances Bishop, the second librarian at the KCPL and Whitney’s “inseparable friend.” The two shared a home for four decades until Whitney’s death in 1934. Their relationship has even inspired fan fiction.

“Since (Whitney’s) first two husbands were rather ick, we went with the more loving pairing since mourning doves mate for life,” Caliman said.

As the library prepares for the eggs to hatch, staff are asking for help naming the newborn doves. They’re encouraging visitors to send in recommendations — perhaps also inspired by the library’s history.

“After the eggs hatch, which should be any day now … they’ll be fledgling and preparing in the next several days after that for their first flight,” Westra said.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, newborn mourning doves will stay in their nest for 12-15 days after hatching — so you’ll still have a chance to catch the library visitors before they book it.

Emma Flannery is the summer 2024 news intern at KCUR. Email her at eflannery@kcur.org.
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