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Are doves romantic birds?

Doves have long been seen as a symbol of love and romance. Their cooing sounds, graceful appearance, and monogamous lifelong partnerships have cemented them as one of the most romantic animals. But are doves truly romantic birds, or is this just a human projection? Let’s take a closer look at the evidence.

Doves’ Appearance and Symbolism

With their soft, rounded bodies, gentle eyes, and iridescent feathers, doves epitomize beauty and grace in the animal kingdom. The bright white plumage of many dove species evokes purity, innocence, and peace. Some of the popular species associated with love include:

  • White doves – Symbolize purity, new beginnings, peace, and love.
  • Mourning doves – Known for their sorrowful cooing sounds, representing lost love.
  • Turtle doves – Named for their plumage resembling turtle shells. Symbolize devoted love in many cultures.
  • Lovebirds – Small, colorful parrots named for their affectionate, inseparable pairs.

In Ancient Greek and Roman mythology, doves pulled the chariot for the love goddess Venus. They also delivered love messages between gods and mortals. The biblical story of Noah’s ark describes a dove returning with an olive branch, symbolizing hope, peace, and new beginnings after loss. With this cultural history, it’s easy to see why doves gained their romantic reputation.

Doves’ Sounds and Displays

The distinctive, mournful cooing of many doves and pigeons contains low, soothing frequencies that convey a sense of gentleness, safety, and comfort. We associate these sounds with peace, tranquility, and care – emotions central to love and romance.

Some dove courting displays also influence their romantic perception. Male doves will puff up, bow, and circle a female while cooing repetitively to attract her. Once bonded, couples preen each other’s feathers and bill, synchronize their coos, and frequently kiss – touching bills together. These tender, affectionate behaviors project human ideas of romance onto doves.

Doves’ Mating Habits

Most doves and pigeons form monogamous pair bonds, meaning they mate for life. Some symbolic monogamous species include:

  • Mourning doves – Usually maintain seasonal pair bonds, though may find new mates each year after a loss.
  • Ringneck doves – Mate for life and display strong pair bonds.
  • Turtle doves – Iconic for devoted partnerships, even though up to a quarter may divorce and re-pair.

Both sexes build nests together and share parenting duties equally. They produce crop milk to feed their squabs (young). This perceived loyalty, cooperation, and nurturing reinforces their reputation as romantic birds, despite some infidelity.

Evidence Against Doves’ Romance

While doves show some traits that we interpret as romantic, the truth is more complex. Here are a few insights from science:

  • Their pair bonds serve essential purposes like breeding, nesting, and raising young – not just love.
  • While they prefer lifelong mates, they may find new partners in response to scarcity, better options, or after loss.
  • Their billing and cooing arecourtship rituals stimulated by hormones – not conscious displays of affection.
  • While they co-parent, both parents are driven by instinct to pass on their genes rather than a conscious desire to care for their mate.

So in reality, what appears romantic to us is just doves acting on innate behaviors and drives shaped by natural selection. Anthropomorphizing their bonds as “love” is likely a very human projection.


Do doves exhibit some behaviors that humans associate with romance and love? Absolutely. Their appearance, sounds, symbolic history, and monogamy give them an undeniably romantic aura. However, applying human ideas of romance onto doves is not entirely scientifically accurate. Their pair bonds serve reproduction and survival purposes, not conscious love. Still, the perception of doves as romantic endures in culture and the human imagination.

Perhaps we should enjoy doves for their beautiful symbolism and gentle nature without making overly anthropomorphic interpretations. Their partnerships certainly seem loving by animal standards, even if human definitions of romance don’t completely align. One thing is clear – this graceful, harmonious species will continue inspiring romance for ages to come.