What Is the Symbolic Meaning of Turtle Doves?

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Turtle doves symbolize love and faithfulness because they mate for life, work together to build nests and raise their young together. They are immortalized in literary and poetic works, such as the Old Testament, and artists like Shakespeare, Edmund Spenser and Buddy Holly.

The Bible depicts doves as loyal, honest and loving. In Leviticus 12:8, two turtle doves replaced a lamb sacrifice. Mary and Joseph sacrificed two turtle doves in Jerusalem at Christ’s birth. Turtle doves are still associated with the Christmas tradition.

In Egyptian, Roman and Chinese societies, doves symbolized innocence, long life, peace, devotion and love, and caring for one’s family. Turtle doves spend winters in Africa and breed in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Turtle doves are graceful, with long necks, slender bodies and small, gray-blue heads. Turtle doves enjoy fruits and seeds, but occasionally eat grubs, caterpillars and small leaves and buds. Turtle doves flock by day, searching for food and water, and roost at night. These birds suck rather than sip water by dipping their beaks.

They are easy to domesticate and enjoy living near humans. Turtle doves are suitable pets and enjoy eating finely grated carrots, rice, hard-boiled eggs, crushed raw peanuts and mealworms.