What the dove is really saying (020)

You might think that the ring dove is saying ‘rooo cooo’. But if you listen carefully, then you will hear that he is saying something quite different. What exactly he is saying and why are told in this old story about Noah’s Ark. You will also find the answer to why the ring dove has red feet.

Finally there came an end to the relentless deluge. The rain of forty days and forty nights had turned the earth into one enormous expanse of water.  Hoping to soon set foot on dry ground once again, Noah and his family were still crowded together on the ark with all the animals they had collected, a male and female of each species.  Day in day out they scanned the waters to see if the level had begun to drop. When Noah thought this long hoped for moment had come, he asked the birds for a volunteer to go out and see if any dry ground was to be seen yet. The large strong white raven offered his services at once. But he failed his mission and for punishment was turned into a black screeching creature. Likewise, the kingfisher was only concerned with his own needs from the moment he sensed the freedom of the deep blue sky and was banished to an uncertain existence bound by water. Noah was angry and disappointed with them both. ‘Third time lucky,’ he said to his wife, ‘I will try one more time.’

He pondered deeply over which bird was best suited to the task and then chose the sweet-natured dove to send out to scout around. With a noisy flapping of wings, this rather ungainly bird rose up above the ark and flew out across the wide expanse of water. Very quickly he noticed a few green patches of dry earth. On arriving there he was shocked by the sight of carcasses lying around. He tripped across the sodden earth turned red from the blood of dead creatures mixing with the flood water. Ever since then a dove has red legs and feet. This trustworthy bird, however, did not forget that he had an important mission to fulfill. He pulled off a small twig with green leaves from a tree and flew back with it to the Ark. Noah was happy and surprised that the dove had returned with proof that the waters had started to drop and that life on earth had resumed. ‘Tell me, what did you see on your journey?’ Noah asked the dove. Still stunned and bewildered by the sight of dead creatures everywhere, the dove tried to answer “rotting cows’. All he managed to utter though was ‘r ‘ and ‘c’ followed by a gasp of pain ‘oooh  ‘oooh’. Noah was proud of the dove which had returned carrying a sign of hope and responded: ‘O Dove, from now on you will be the symbol of hope and love in difficult times.’ The dove never recovered from his traumatic experience. To this day his legs and feet are still red and he calls ‘roooh coooh’.

The most well-known types of dove are the large ring dove with the white neck and wing markings; the smaller gray stock dove; the rock dove which is descended from the rock dove; and, finally, the small light brown collared dove. The ring dove lives habitually in groups. It is commonly found in parks, gardens, and, given the choice, in wheat and maize fields. It is an excellent flyer. When it flies up into the air, the noisy flapping of its wings can be easily heard. This sound is caused by the wings clapping together when they meet above and below the bird’s body. Generally, they only lay two eggs at a time, but raise at least three nests a year. Buzzards, hawks and sparrowhawks enjoy a dove on their menu.


© Els Baars, Natuurverhalen.nl

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Els Baars