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The Eloquent Symbolism of Mourning Doves

written by: Kristina Dems • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 6/15/2014

The distinctive plaintive call of the mourning dove primarily suggests gloom and sorrow. Yet throughout history, the morning dove has been portrayed as a positive symbol. Find out more about the significant symbolism of this beautiful bird.

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    What Are Mourning Doves?

    dove By virtue of their melancholy call, mourning doves have been fittingly named. Their distinctive “wooo-oo-oo-oo” sounds may evoke a feeling of grief over the loss of a dearly beloved.

    But far from representing death, the symbolism of mourning doves gives us optimism with its spirituality. Beyond their sorrowful song is a message of life, hope, renewal and peace.

    This beautiful bird (Zenaidura macroura) is the most common species of dove found in North America. Because they are plentiful, they are considered the most popular bird game – hunted both for meat and sport.

    A dove is in fact a small pigeon. There is no technical difference between a dove and a pigeon save that doves are depicted to have pointed tails and move in a more graceful manner. Grayish-brown in color, Mourning Doves drink water by sucking – a remarkable accomplishment for birds.

    Another remarkable feature is their monogamous nature. Mates typically stick together for the long run and become very devoted parents.

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    3 Key Representations

    Among all the birds, the mourning dove is among the most celebrated bird – gracing sacred scripture (The Holy Bible under the Christian Faith) and appearing as a recurring icon in our lives. What does this bird symbolize? Below are the traditional and primary concepts it epitomizes:

    • A symbol of the Holy Spirit

    The Holy Spirit, one of the figures of the Holy Trinity (The Christian Doctrine advancing the belief that God exists in three persons: Father, Son and Spirit) is depicted as a dove in the baptism of Jesus. According to the Bible, when Jesus emerged from the water, a dove from heaven descended upon him. Baptism is a Christian Sacrament of spiritual rebirth by which we our “cleansed” of our “original sin,” and the Holy Spirit places us in permanent union in Christ, and makes us a formal member of the Christian Community.

    • A symbol of Hope

    In the Noah’s Ark story, God decided to create a big flood to wipe out all the people on earth, except for Noah and his family. After forty days and forty nights, Noah released a raven to look for dry land. When the raven returned without success, a dove was then released. The dove, thereafter, flew back triumphantly with an olive leaf. Noah was pleased. It brought reassurance that trees were growing on dry land – a certain sign of life! The dove stood, therefore for new beginnings, great expectations and deliverance.

    • A symbol of Peace

    Although it is a white dove that typically represents peace and safety, mourning doves may also represent the same. The states of Wisconsin and Michigan regard the mourning dove as their official state symbol of peace. Pablo Picasso, the famous Spanish artist, when commissioned to design the logo for the World Peace Congress in 1949, drew a dove entitled “Dove of Peace-Blue.” It is because of their simple and maternal nature that doves have become a symbol of solidarity and concord among nations.

    Photo Courtesy of Morguefile.com