This month I’ve seen a few reports on PABIRDS of lone white doves at backyard bird feeders. The writer usually asks, “Where did this bird come from?”
I have a theory.
June is a popular month for weddings and the weather allows for a beautiful tradition — a white dove release. At the end of the ceremony the bride and groom each hold and release a dove or a whole flock is released from small cages draped in white.
Symbolizing love and peace the doves circle up together and fly away, seemingly into the blue.
In fact they fly home.
These romantic birds come from a dove release service. They are actually white homing pigeons and the dove keeper is counting on their flocking and homing instincts to bring them back to the dovecote so they can be rented again.
They circle up together because they want to be with their friends (flock) and they want to go home. Miraculously in the few seconds it takes them to circle the wedding grounds they figure out where they are and where to go — and then they fly home.
Normally each bird would reach home, even if flying alone, but sometimes one gets confused along the way. Eventually he stops and finds a flock of compatriots — pigeons. He isn’t at home but that’s OK. He’s with a flock.
So when you find a random white dove in an odd place in June, it’s probably a confused bird for hire.
(Sorry to burst your bubble about wedding doves. Yes, they are white pigeons.)
(photo from Shutterstock.com)
p.s. In the early 2000’s during the heyday of Cathedral of Learning peregrines Dorothy and E2, a Heinz Chapel docent used to tell prospective brides that a release of doves at the Chapel could end tragically. In those days the peregrines regularly raised 4-5 chicks whose appetites were at their maximum in June. A flock of wedding doves circling up next to the Cathedral of Learning was a tempting target for the peregrines.