Mourning Dove Meaning and Symbolism

mourning dove meaning
Mourning doves hold special symbolic meaning to many cultures and faith traditions. Seeing a mourning dove, especially landing on your window sill is interpreted as a message from a recently deceased love one, or the sign that a loved one has passed. 

What does it mean when you see a mourning dove?

Because a pair of doves will mate for life, they are often a symbol of love, loyalty, fertility, and devotion. Adopted as the symbol for the First International Peace Conference in Paris (1949), doves are most often seen as a symbol of hope, love, and peace.

All doves make a cooing sound many people associate with sadness and loss, where the mourning dove gets its name. It is sometimes called the morning dove or turtle dove. Despite the sometimes sad symbolism associated with doves, around the world, many people see all doves as a harbinger of love, light, and hope.

Let’s look at a few of the most common beliefs about these beautiful birds.

mourning dove meaning

What is the difference between a mourning dove and a white dove?

So much of the artwork depicting doves shows a white dove with no markings, sometimes carrying an olive branch in its beak. While the mourning dove is often a symbol of sorrow and mourning, symbolically, the mourning dove and white dove are interchangeable.

The all-white dove is sometimes referred to as the Sacred White Dove or the White Dove. A white mutation of the ringneck dove, white feathered doves, only exists as a domesticated bird. If you happen to see a dove with all white feathers in North America, it is likely an escaped pet.

Some keepers will allow their domesticated white doves to fly freely during the day. In this case, the bird will be banded to identify who they belong to. Despite not being as instantly recognizable as the all-white mutation favored by artists, the grey mourning dove is still regarded as a spiritual symbol of peace, love, and faith the world over.

mourning doves sitting together

Is a mourning dove a good omen?

In many cultural and spiritual beliefs, the dove is not exclusively a good or bad omen. When the mourning dove arrives and who sees it affects the message they bring more than anything.

In medieval Europe, the first dove call of the year was said to indicate good luck or bad luck. A dove cooing from high above signified prosperity and good luck. If the call came from beneath or below, bad luck and despair were believed to be imminent.

The symbolic meaning depends on the emotional state of the person the dove visits. For someone who is happy in their daily life and following their dreams, a mourning dove is said to be a sign from above that everything is on the right path. When a person has experienced a recent loss or is grieving, a dove brings comfort and spiritual connection.

a single mourning dove

What does a mourning dove mean in Christianity?

In Christianity, the dove is primarily a symbol of peace. The mourning dove symbolizes the Holy Spirit and a connection between God and His followers. It is believed a dove appeared at Noah’s ark with an olive branch to let Noah know the flood was over.

Mourning doves are believed to comfort families grieving lost loved ones. On their wings, they bring the peace and love of the Holy Spirit to all they visit.

The dove is also referenced in the Bible several times. When Jesus was baptized, it is said the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus “like a dove.” Different denominations of Christians hold varied opinions on whether the dove in this instance was literal or figurative, but all agree doves have deep spiritual meaning for Christians.

What does a mourning dove mean in Native American Culture?

While Native American Cultural beliefs vary from tribe to tribe, the mourning dove is a common spirit animal among North American tribes.

Mourning and white doves symbolize power, wisdom, strength, honor, and freedom. Doves are believed to be connected to the Creator, who sends the gray and white feathers from the sky as gifts. The feather’s owner is said to share a deep connection with the Creator and the dove’s spirit.

Several tribes, including the Blackfoot peoples, associate all doves with protection and safe return from hunting and battle. Tribe leaders often carried dove feathers as talismans to help bring their people back to safety.

While the exact meaning varies between tribes, it’s clear that doves and their feathers are deeply revered and hold special significance to many Native Americans.

The mourning dove is so revered among Native American peoples Christine Quintasket chose the name Mourning Dove as her penname. Her books filled with tribal legends and stories were instrumental in preserving some of her people’s cultural heritage.

Does a mourning dove represent sadness?

Mourning doves get their name from the long, mournful coo sound they make when they sing. Because of this, mourning doves are often associated with sadness.

Whether a mourning dove appearing means sadness, hope, or joy depends entirely on the person. If you are grieving, many cultures and faiths believe the dove spirit has come to hold space with you and provide comfort during difficult times.

If a dove appears when you’re making a big decision or considering the path you’re on, a mourning dove comes to let you know you’ve made the right choice.

If a dove visits you in a dream, whatever grief or struggle you’ve been under will soon be relieved. Seeing mourning doves in your dreams is also a sign that your friends and loved ones are loyal and can be counted on through your most challenging times.

When the dove is being released from a cage by someone specific, it’s a sign that person loves and cares for you more than you may realize. While many people associate the mournful call of the mourning dove with sadness and loss, their symbolism the world over is tied to hope, love and prosperity.

From the legends told in African nations to Greek and Roman mythology and modern-day beliefs, mourning doves are universally seen as a sign of good luck and new beginnings.

Whether you’re looking for answers or missing a lost loved one, a visit from a mourning dove is a message of comfort and love. No matter what you believe, a mourning dove appearing is a remarkable sight to see.

Tara Summerville

Tara Summerville is a freelance writer that loves her backyard birdfeeders. She enjoys sitting on her deck with a cup of coffee, watching cardinals, blue jays, finches, and chickadees munch away at her backyard offerings. Her fascination with birds began as a child; spending afternoons at her grandma's house watching and identifying birds. She has since carried her love of songbirds into adulthood and ensures no bird in her yard goes hungry!

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