It was a dove in a tree. But not just a dove. My first exposure to a dove of this species came nearly a decade earlier. It was on a barrier island in Florida. The calls of this bird brought a sense of being in an exotic place. The dove in the tree was the same species, close up. But it was not in Florida. This bird was in central North Dakota.
The bird is an Eurasian Dove or Streptopelia decaocto . The spread of these doves across the North American continent is astonishing. Yet, almost beyond belief is the fact that this bird’s place of origin is the Middle East. In 1974 ancestors of the dove in the photo were accidentally introduced to the Bahamas through a burglary of a pet shop. By the 1980’s this dove’s ancestors where in Florida. 47 years later collared doves live in North Dakota. It is an astounding testimony of the resilient power of a species, and something more, but that comes later.
If the essential habitat is present wildlife flourishes. In the circumstance of the collared dove, it is people who have provided the collared dove the platform to expand its range so swiftly. Bird feeders and trees people have planted in urban and suburban areas have created the perfect habitat storm for collared doves to flourish. They are now found in every state from Florida to Washington, all states west of the Mississippi have collared dove populations. Collared doves prosper where there are people.
Remember the collared dove’s place of origin? My imagination prompts me to think of another dove thriving under the care of people. This one was in a boat, a very large boat. All the land species of animals found in the world were on this boat. The boat floated through an earth flooding storm lasting 150 days. 10 months and 40 days later, almost a year after the flood began, the man on the boat released a dove “to see if the water had receded from the ground.” It came back to his hand. 7 days later it returned to him with a ‘freshly plucked olive leaf” in its beak. When he “sent it out” a third time a week later, “it did not return to him”. There is a respectable probability the dove Noah released three times was the Eurasian collared dove.
God also used the dove to teach us about Himself. When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, the Holy Spirit of God came “down from heaven as a dove and remained on Jesus.”
Watch a gentle dove, be reminded of the tender, enduring love of God the Father Creator. God used a dove for his purpose in the flood, at the baptism of Jesus, and he is spreading his doves to remind us today his love is unchanged. The world is not spinning out of control. God oversees all, nothing escapes his notice, nothing occurs without his allowing, even the spread of doves. What should be our response to One who commands birds, even the wind and the waves…and they obey?