February is the traditional month of love honored with Valentines’ Day, gifts, candy and flowers for those we love. Even some birds seem to celebrate this season of love.
My patio has been the dining area for several resident lovebirds in February. At least five pairs of mourning doves gather each morning for a breakfast of grain and corn, waddling and twaddling about on their sticklike legs.
I named each couple Lovey and Dovey. When I see one dove, I see its mate nearby. They peck for seeds together and converse with whispered coos. Their low, mellow songs follow me on my morning walks as the notes echo from one bird to the other.
Like doting lovers, doves are comfortable in their routines and relationships. For better or for worse, in sickness and in health, they seem to take our commitment vows more seriously than we humans do. They mate for life – till death separates them.
Early cultures recognized the constancy and gentleness of these birds and associated them with love and peace. The early Greeks and Romans honored the dove as a symbol of love. It was the sacred bird of Aphrodite and Venus, their goddesses of love. For the Chinese, Japanese and Hindus, the dove symbolized peace.
And peaceful birds they are. Doves are ground feeders, avoiding the clamor and chaos at the hanging feeders. They seem uncomfortable in crowds and are often skittish and startled by sudden movements or noise. Doves seem content with a simple life of slow, graceful movements.
From the Old Testament to the New Testament in the Bible, the dove appeared as a messenger of good news. A dove delivered an olive branch to Noah to mark the end of the great flood and to show that peace had been restored between God and man. From that event, the dove and the olive branch became symbols of peace and reconciliation.
Doves made multiple appearances in Christ’s life from before his birth to his resurrection. A dove appeared in a dream to the parents of Mary before her birth to let them know the important role she would play in religious history as the mother of Christ. A second dove perched on Joseph’s staff as a sign to him that Mary would become his wife.
Legend claims the soft cooing lullaby of the doves in the Nativity stable soothed the Christ Child to sleep. Later at the infant’s ritual blessing, Joseph brought two white doves as an offering to the priests.
At Christ’s baptism, the spirit of God descended from the heavens like a dove. And, doves appeared at Christ’s resurrection as symbols of the love and peace in his life. Throughout Christ’s live, doves surrounded him with their beauty and gentleness.
Watching the antics of my lovebirds entertains me during the cold month of February. They model the blessing, “Go in peace,” causing no harm and living and leaving with the Spirit of God. But they provide more than just a bird-watching experience and entertainment. Studying them convinces me that we humans have much to learn from our friends the birds – constancy, companionship, and caring – simple lessons from God’s beautiful, simple creatures.