For the second fact of Christmas, we have two turtle doves. My first question… how do these doves have anything to do with turtles? Turns out it has no connection whatsoever to the reptile, but it’s merely a coincidence of Latin language origins. The turtle of the turtle dove comes from turtur in Latin, which is so named from the sound these doves make, best described as a deep “turrr, turrr” sound.
The birds are brownish in colour, with white and black patterns all over. They are most famous for their mating habits, which is why they show up so regularly in poetry and song, including their gifting in the Twelve Days of Christmas. Turtle doves are often found in pairs as they form strong bonds, mostly monogamous for life. As such, they are often used as a literary symbol of love.
Nowadays, the turtle dove population has apparently dropped about 62% due to a lack of favourite wildflowers caused by a change in European farming practices. Plus on their annual migration they have to dodge a lot of bullets as they fly through the Mediterranean regions where they are hunted as game birds. That, seems to me, would make for a pretty light snack.
Doves are actually the same thing as pigeons. They are all in the same bird family, columbidae. It’s odd to think that the white dove, an international symbol of peace, is one step away from the “flying rats” known as city pigeons. (a descendant of the rock dove) They are the most prevalent birds in the entire world, but some species have gone extinct including the famous dodo bird.
One thing totally unique to the dove family is how they drink. Unlike every other bird that takes a small sip of water, then tilts its head back, a pigeon or dove will drop its beak into the water and suck the water up like a straw.
Tomorrow in the Twelve Facts of Christmas you can look forward to Three French Hens. Finally, something other than a bird! (wait, what?)
- Source: Turtle Dove on Wikipedia