Doves, Very Unusual Birds
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 by Frank Shortt
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Doves have homing instincts, therefore, they have been used throughout the centuries as messenger, or carrier birds. They mate for life and when one is used as a messenger, the mate is left back at the starting point to insure that the carrier will return to the spot. Doves are known for their powerful flight patterns and, while flying, create a whirring sound with their wings. A mourning dove can reach speeds as high as 55 miles per hour. This could explain why they have been used for messengers. The most common colors of dove are; gray, white, brown, and peach. Ironically, being a peace symbol, they have been used as messengers during wartime.

The 'cooing' of a dove is very soothing to the human senses. This sound is a characteristic of all species of doves. What could be more soothing than to be lying by a brook in the evening and hearing doves cooing to each other? Some say this is their way of communicating. The dove, holding an olive branch, has been a symbol of peace throughout history. Early Christians placed an image of a dove and olive branch on their gravestones. When artists portray Noah's ark, a dove and olive branch sometimes will be included to show that Noah used the dove to tell him when the waters of the flood was assuaged. As long as carrion floated on the surface of the waters, the dove would not alight on the contaminated bodies the reason being its specific feeding patterns.

Doves have no gall bladder! therefore, they cannot digest carrion, or animal flesh. This could explain why the dove came back to the ark when Noah first let it out. It found no place to rest its feet. Their diets consist of grains, seeds, greens, berries, fruits, and will occasionally eat small insects, or whatever is easily digestible for them. Certain species eat roughly 12 to 20 percent of their body weight per day, or, 71 calories on average. They do not gorge themselves like some of us.

Doves like the open spaces! They live in open woodlands, dense forests, and mostly urban areas. They can be seen perching on power lines or tree branches. When mating season comes along, males and females work together to build their loosely-made nests, mostly in the springtime, out of grass stems, twigs, moss and pine needles, according to the habitat. They will make nests in man-made structures, horizontal branches, or on the ground. Doves, unlike most birds, can produce multiple hatches in one season, sometimes using the same nests to raise the young. They will often use nests abandoned by other birds. This shows a tendency toward laziness. Mothers and fathers take turns incubating the eggs that usually take two to three weeks to hatch. When the young are hatched, their parents feed them crop milk, a secretion produced by both the male and female. This secretion is formed in their esophagus.

Not all doves migrate south during the winter months. The common ground dove may only migrate a short distance southward, if at all, this probably depends upon the coldness of the winter. The white winged dove either stays where it is, or maybe south, east or toward the west. Mourning doves, who are residents of the United States, fly as far south that insures that the cold weather does not devour them. They sometimes go as far south as Mexico.

Why all this fuss about doves? Well, first and foremost, they can teach us something about mating. They can teach us what foods are more digestible and nourishing. They can show us that, at the end of the day, it is a good idea to head toward home. They can teach us that parenting is a dual role, shared by both the male and female involved, and they can show us that it is not a good idea to 'coop up' and become too crowded. One of the greatest things doves can teach us is that due to their peace-loving natures, they cannot be at home with beasts of prey, birds of prey, and any other thing that would be a hindrance to their existence! Also, wouldn't it be better to coo rather than roar? When a death-dealing pandemic threatens, they teach us to migrate, if possible until the wrath is past.
Could we humans learn anything from this wonderful little bird?