I heard it right before Valentine's Day. Usually it begins at the end of March, but this year the cry of the dove started early. For years the mourning dove has been a consistent presence at our home in the spring. I so enjoy hearing the melancholy call of this bird! It is most frequently heard first thing in the morning (before the dove begins its daily activities) and last thing at night (before it settles down to rest).
The male dove uses his voice to attract the female and starts with one soft coo-oo, followed by two or three louder coos. He will also use his voice if there is a threat or to announce his territory. The females sometimes coo while sitting on their nests. A unique characteristic of these birds is that they can produce their own "milk." They feed their young regurgitated, partially digested food known as pigeon milk. The birds are self-sacrificing for the sake of their offspring. They stop foraging for food just before their babies are born, temporarily starving themselves so that they produce a purer "milk." This is produced for the first four or five days of their babies' lives.
The female lays two eggs, 12 hours apart. Those who observe the doves as they incubate their eggs say that the male and female take turns sitting on the nest, each taking a 12-hour shift. About two weeks after the babies are born their wings are developed, and the parents begin teaching them to fly. After their first solo glide to the ground, the babies and parents remain on the ground, hiding in the bushes until the young ones can master flying and fend for themselves. During this time, it is the father who feeds them and trains the babies to be strong and independent. It is interesting to note that doves mate for life.
Consider all this information about the doves. It is significant, in my opinion, that the dove is a symbol for the Holy Spirit. The New Testament books of Matthew, Mark and Luke talk about the Spirit of God descending on Jesus like a dove just after He came up out of the waters of Baptism. It is the Holy Spirit that leads us to freedom in Christ. (2 Corinthians 3:16-17) Once we have received salvation, we are filled with the Holy Spirit who becomes our guide, counselor, encourager and intercessor. He wakens us in the morning and quickens our spirits in the evening to commune with Him.
Just as the male dove uses his coos to attract his mate, the Spirit of God calls to His Bride (The Church) to come to Him. The Spirit is available to us to bring us into intimacy with the Lord. The Triune God willingly sacrificed His life on the Cross so that we could have eternal life with Him. It is a forever commitment just as the doves commit to one another for life.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit work together to protect and nurture us and teach us how to soar and live a victorious life. They feed us life-giving food from the Living Word that will sustain us in any situation. In Song of Solomon 2:13-14 the Bridegroom calls His Bride a dove. "...Arise, come my darling; my beautiful one, come with me. My dove in the cleft of the rock, in the hiding places on the mountainside, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely."
So often, what happens in the natural is mirrored in the spiritual. Could it be that the Holy Spirit is calling to us early so that we can prepare for the Presence of God? As I write this letter, I hear the cry of the dove outside of my window. May our ears be open to the cry of the Spirit as He call us into intimacy with our Lord.
Joan E. Mathias