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Doves of the World

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What's in a name? Americans have a soft spot in their hearts for doves, as evidenced by their presence on wedding decor and their use as symbols of peace. But many refer to pigeons as "flying rats," which is odd since pigeons and doves are one and the same. A dove is any bird in the family Columbidae; what we call pigeons are usually the larger species, but they're doves all the same. Over 300 known species of dove exist, 15 of which live in the United States.

About Doves

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Over 300 species of domestic and exotic doves are living today. Some are kept as pets or used in flying contests, others live in the wild. They can be found in areas both urban and rural. If you live in the city and look out your window, you are most likely to see a pigeon. But if you live out in the country and look out your window, the dove you are seeing is probably a mourning dove. The mourning dove is a common sight all over North America and its trademark sad-sounding coo is often mistaken for the hooting of an owl.

Where Doves Don't Live

Doves are found in just about every place on the planet, with the exception of locales of extreme temperatures such as the Sahara Desert and Antarctica. They are most likely to be found in forests and woodlands, out in the country and in the big city. They are adaptable birds and can fit in wherever they can find food. Some doves eat grains and seeds while others eat mostly fruit. Since grains, seeds and fruit can be found anywhere with the exception of the desert or polar icecaps, doves can make their home and thrive in any number of places.

Dove Fun Facts

Some doves are found only in captivity, such as the ringneck and diamond doves. White doves are not a species unto themselves, but a mutation of the ringneck dove. Doves and pigeons are anatomically different from other birds in that they lack a gallbladder and secrete bile into the stomach instead of a bladder. Like eagles, doves mate for life and raise their young in pairs. The different species belong to several varieties of doves. They are turtledoves, quail doves, ground doves and cuckoo doves.

Not-So-Fun Facts

Birdlife International keeps a close watch on bird populations all over the world. Declines in the population of over 50 species of dove have caused concern. The dodo bird (yes, a giant dove!) and the passenger pigeon are already extinct; several more are found only in captivity; approximately 59 species of dove are threatened with extinction. The dove features prominently in Christianity and as an international symbol of hope and peace. Yet, even though it is a cultural icon, the dove is losing its place in the world due to habitat destruction, sport hunting and the introduction of non-native predators.