December 22, 2013

Turtle Doves (2nd Day of Christmas)



Hugs for Fran and Jim


  On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me
A partridge in a pear tree.
On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me
A partridge in a pear tree
Two turtle doves…


A couple of years ago I was in Buffalo, New York, during the Christmas season. While at the home of my (Kensington) high school friend, Pat, I examined the ornaments on her tree. I was taken aback when I recognized that numerous ornaments were familiar—they were ones I’d sent her through the years.

This often happens, as our family Christmas card has, for 42 years, been a tree ornament. My sister Sally has a tree set aside to display our ornaments.

One goal on my “bucket list” is to complete one ornament representing each of the gifts listed in the song The Twelve Days of Christmas. Because the ornaments are interspersed with other timely themes, I have many to do.

Couldn't use photo of baby doves

Couldn’t use flash…nighttime…best photo of baby doves

In June my friend watched doves nesting in a planter hung on her porch. I was fortunate to see the baby birds shortly after they hatched and the day before they left the nest. It was even more fortunate that I photographed the latter.

Ready...set...not yet...

Ready…set…not yet…

The picture of two now-adult (or late adolescent?) doves provided the theme for this year’s ornament—On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me, two turtle doves… In the musical piece the doves represent the Old and the New Testaments.

800px-Turturduva7 Doves also play a role in Jesus’ birth story:

  • The time came for Mary and Joseph to do what the Law of Moses says a mother is supposed to do after her baby is born. They took Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem and presented him to the Lord. 23just as the Law of the Lord says, “Each first-born baby boy belongs to the Lord.” The Law of the Lord also says that parents have to offer a sacrifice, giving at least a pair of doves or two young pigeons. So that is what Mary and Joseph did. — Luke 2:23-24 (The Learning Bible. Contemporary English version)


As I made the ornaments this year I pondered the question Why turtle doves? Unable to find an answer on the Internet, I can only extrapolate that they were used because parents of a first-born son had to offer as a sacrifice for the birth, a minimum of two doves or pigeons.


But what are turtle doves, as listed in the song??? Isn’t the term turtle dove an oxymoron—a land creature combined with a flying creature? Are they plump sand-colored soft-shelled turtles with feathers and wings? I wondered, so I did what I always do. I researched them on the Internet and discovered this information: Despite the identical spelling, the “turtle” of the name Turtle Dove, derived from Latin turtur, has no connection with the reptile; “turtle” in that case came originally from Late Latin tortuca.

Of course, I also discovered much more information on the Turtle dove.

Turtle Dove is an a. k. a. name for a Mourning Dove (other a. k. a.s are American Mourning Dove, Rain Dove, Carolina Pigeon, and Carolina Turtledove).

  • Its plaintive woo-OO-oo-oo-oo call gives the bird its name… It is one of the most abundant and widespread of all North American birds. It is also the leading gamebird, with more than 20 million birds (up to 70 million in some years) shot annually in the U.S., both for sport and for meat. .. The species is generally monogamous with two squabs (young) per brood. Both parents incubate and care for the young. Mourning Doves eat almost exclusively seeds, but the young are fed crop milk by their parents.

Upon further exploration I discovered the European Turtle Dove, which is distinctively different from the American Turtle Dove. I suspect this is the Turtle Dove referred to in Scripture. It is Found throughout Europe, the Canary Islands, Egypt, northwest Africa, the central Sahara and western Siberia south to Kazakhstan.

  • It is a bird of open rather than dense woodlands, and frequently feeds on the ground. It will occasionally nest in large gardens, but is usually extremely timid, probably due to the heavy hunting pressure it faces during migration. The flight is often described as arrowy, but is not remarkably swift.
    The nuptial flight, high and circling, is like that of the Common Wood Pigeon, but the undulations are less decided; it is accompanied by the whip-crack of the downward flicked wings. The arrival in spring is heralded by its purring song, a rather deep, vibrating “turrr, turrr”, from which the bird’s name is derived.
  • Adults feed on the ground, mainly on cereal and wildflower seeds and the occasional insect. During the first five days of life the young are fed on ‘crop-milk’ which the parents regurgitate. They then eat small seeds and insects. Turtle doves return from their wintering grounds around late April and immediately start nesting. The nests are usually made in hedges or scrub, two broods may be produced in the season each consisting of two eggs. Both parents share the incubation and feeding duties

2006_1031turturduva0224With luck the two doves raised in Fran’s planter will live their full 13.2 year, 4796 day, life span.

Jesus’ birth preceded the then expected lifespan—(The days of our years are threescore years and ten…—Psalm 90:10 {King James version}), or about 25,568 days. However, his life was cut short at about twelve thousand six hundred days.

220px-Streptopelia_chinensis_Tas_EditThe Turtle Dove is also a symbol of love because of its tender mating song and faithfulness, the turtle dove is also a creature of habit: its daily feeding routine runs like clockwork.

  • Song of Solomon:  2…11For behold, the winter is past, The rain is over and gone. 12The flowers have already appeared in the land; The time has arrived for pruning the vines, And the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land.


As the twelve days of Christmas progresses Monte and I wish you the love of the season, as represented by the Turtle Dove and demonstrated by the birth of Jesus. And ponder the Turtle Dove on December 26, which is the second day of Christmas.



Osprey and Seagull Photos

Osprey in New York’s St. Lawrence Valley

Googins Island, Maine: An Osprey Sanctuary


1 Comment »

  1. […] Turtle Doves (2nd Day of Christmas) […]

    Pingback by Turtle doves’ nests in Morocco, new research | Dear Kitty. Some blog — July 10, 2014 @ 8:48 am | Reply

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