What’s the difference between a dove and a pigeon?
That’s been the question on our mind recently as both birds evidently have been flying around our ranch. There must be both, and we can’t easily tell the difference. Some are much larger than others, but then some are an in-between size, and we really don’t know what they are. Maybe they’re overgrown doves or young pigeons?
Dove hunting season is under way, and many sportsmen are bringing their shotguns out of summer storage to spend a few days in the field sharpening their aim on doves in preparation for the additional migratory and upland game bird seasons. We’ve never shot a dove, but we’ve tried and missed, although we have friends who are avid dove hunters.
It doesn’t seem like we’ve seen too many pigeons in recent years, except at major fair displays. We remember farmers who used to have cupolas on their barns where pigeons stayed. One time, we recall when visiting our uncle’s farm near Dunlap, that he shot at the pigeons on his barn with a .22 rifle, but fortunately for them, none were hit.
Doves and pigeons have been domesticated for thousands of years, have been used in the past as sacrifices to gods, raised for food and kept as pets. Pigeons have carried messages across battlefields, been couriers of news and transported medicine.
Tame pigeons still carry messages, but more commonly are raised for racing, meat to eat and a variety of experiments. Urban feral pigeon populations are considered nuisances, and are typically exterminated. White dove releases are an attraction at some weddings and often used in magic shows, while a few species of doves are raised as pets.
Wild dove and pigeon hunting is still a popular sport. Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks is asking dove hunters to look for leg bands on the mourning doves they shoot to better manage dove counts. Information can be reported by phoning 1-800-327-BAND (2263), or on the internet at www.reportband.gov.
Thousands of years ago, doves and pigeons clustered in temples and were linked with fertility goddesses symbolizing love, peace and harmony. Pigeons have endearing loyalty and devotion to the same mate year after year.
Long associated with peace, the dove symbol first appeared around 4500 B.C. and combined the attributes of all pigeons and doves. By biblical times, they had become a familiar symbol, and are mentioned 50 times in the Bible. Noah had a pair on the ark as reported in Genesis 8-12: “And he sent forth a dove to see if the waters were abated.”
They’re referred to at Jesus’ baptism in Matthew 3:16: “And Jesus, when he was baptized, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him.” Their gentle spirit is reported in Matthew 10:16: “I send you forth as sheep among wolves: be ye wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”