Pond-side Birdwatching in Florida I

PondsideBirdwatching.photo1

Pond-side Birdwatching in Florida,

from Chaplain Bob’s Backyard: Part 1

  by James J. S. Johnson

He turneth the wilderness into a standing water [’agam = “pond”], and dry ground into water-springs.  (Psalm 107:35)

Another wonderful morning in St. Petersburg (Florida), gazing at the duck pond and its marshy shores, with mocha coffee, buttered rye toast, and my feet propped up, birdwatching from the pond-side backyard of Chaplain Bob and Marcia Webel   —   under a huge beach umbrella, shielded from the occasional post-digestion droppings (!) from several ibises and ospreys perched in branches that hung over where were sat, birdwatching, properly outfitted with binoculars, coffee mugs, breakfast foods, and a bird-book. That is what I was doing, by God’s grace, on Monday morning (2-9-AD2015) during February (which, by the way,  is officially “National Bird-Feeding Month” – see 103rd Congress, Volume 140, Congressional Record, for 2-23-1994, U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. John Porter speaking on “National Wild Bird Feeding Month”).

The lacustrine birds (in this backyard-and-pond setting) were busy, busy, busy,  —  and noisy!  — with their morning activities.  Most of them were ducks (mallards and lesser scaups).  These lentic water-loving birds were busy:  some were paddling across the pond, quacking, splashing, dabbling or diving, others were perching on shoreline tree branches, or loitering in the pond-edge marshy plants.  Most of them were sporadically flying here and there, sometimes alone, sometimes as a group.  (And they noticed the presence of turtles in the water, as well as a dog on the shoreline.)   Sometimes tall wading birds (e.g., egrets and herons) perched atop the roofs of houses near the pond-shore. In that one morning, in just an hour or two, I saw at least 14 different birds, plus we heard the distinctive cooing of a mourning dove!

To memorialize the happy experience (which was all the more enjoyable because it was shared with my good friends Bob and Marcia Webel), please appreciate this quick report on those pond-side birds, blended with a few thoughts about those fair fowl —  all of which birds were so carefully made and maintained by our Lord Jesus Christ. Of course, it would take too long to report, now, on all 15 birds that we then observed.  So this report  (God willing)  will be just the first installment – reporting on the Great Blue Heron, Brown Pelican, Mallard, Double-Crested Cormorant, and Black Vulture,  —  within what should be a mini-series, eventually covering  all 15 of those beautiful-to-behold  backyard-pond-birds.

Great Blue Heron by Dan

Great Blue Heron

GREAT  BLUE  HERON   (Ardea herodias). The Great Blue Heron is a tall, majestic egret-like bird, poised and dignified.  It can stand still as a statue for a long time, waiting for its food to become snatchable.  When the heron spies its prey (likely a fish or frog – but maybe a small mammal, bird, lizard, or even a snake!), at the side of a pond, it stabs with sudden speed – the prey never saw that powerful, sharp, dagger-like beak coming – till it was too late! When in flight, the Great Blue Heron is graceful, purposeful, and dignified.  The National Audubon Society’s Field Guide to North American Birds – Eastern Region (Alfred A, Knopf, 1994 revised edition), co-authored by John Bull & John Farrand, Jr., reports (at its page 367) this description of the Great Blue Heron:  “A common, large, mainly [Confederate] grayish heron with pale or yellowish bill.” Its most habitat – which changes with seasonal migrations — is a pond’s edge, or that of a lake, stream, river, or marshland.  What a regal bird!  “For most of us, sightings of great blue herons are confined to a glimpse of the bird as it flies slowly and steadily overhead, wings arching gracefully down with each beat, neck bent back, and feet trailing behind.  At other times we see it on its feeding grounds, standing motionless and staring intently into shallow water, or wading with measured steps as it searches for prey.” [Quoting from “Great Blue Heron”, by Donald W. Stokes & Lillian Q. Stokes, in Bird Behavior, Volume III (Little, Brown & Co., 1989), page 25.]

Brown Pelican and Laughing Gull by Dan MacDill Shore 2014

Brown Pelican and Laughing Gull by Dan MacDill Shore 2014

BROWN  PELICAN   (Pelecanus occidentalis). In their Field Guide to North American Birds – Eastern Region (noted above, in the Great Blue Heron entry), Bull & Farrand describe (at page 359) the Brown Pelican as a “very large, stocky bird with a dark brown body and a long flat bill”.  The adult storks have an ivory-white head, dark throat pouch, with dark brown hindneck coloring during the mating season.  The immature storks have dark brown heads and ivory-white breasts. These pelicans are year-round residents of Florida’s coastlands.  Bull & Farrand (on page 359) also report that the Brown Pelican is the “only nonwhite pelican in the world”, describing its eating habit as follows:  “…this marine bird obtains its food by diving from the air, its wings half folded as it plunges into the surf.  During one of these dives, the pouched bill takes in both fish and water; the bird drains out the water before throwing its head back and swallowing the fish.”  Donald and Lillian Stokes contrast this eating habit with that of the American White Pelican, which “feeds while floating on the water”.  (See Donald W. Stokes & Lillian Q. Stokes, Stokes Field Guide to Birds – Eastern Region [Little, Brown & Co., 1996], page 25.) One characteristic behavior of pelicans – the world over (including the Holy Land) – is the practice of adult pelicans regurgitating partially digested food into the mouths of their young.  “Pelicans” (Hebrew noun: qa’ath) are mentioned in Leviticus 11:18, Deuteronomy 14:17, and Psalm 102:6 [v. 7 in the Hebrew Bible’s verse numbering] – and apparently also in Isaiah 34:11 and Zephaniah 2:14.  George Cansdale says: “All pelicans feed their young by partly digested food, taken by the chick as it puts its head down the parent’s throat.  This regurgitation was the basis of the LXX and [Vulgate translation for] pelican, for [the Hebrew noun] qa’ath is said to mean ‘vomiter’.” (Quoting George S. Cansdale, All the Animals of the Bible [Zondervan, 1976], page 157.)  Cansdale rightly notices this, because the Hebrew noun for “vomitus” is qa’ (an etymologically related noun, which appears in Proverbs 26:11).

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) at Lake Parker By Dan'sPix

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) at Lake Parker By Dan’sPix

MALLARD   (a/k/a “GREEN-HEAD”:  Anas platyrhynchos). Mallards are nicknamed “green-heads”, due to the males’ iridescent green heads (which are bordered by a white neck ring).  The mallard male’s breast is chestnut-hued. Mallards live both on the coasts and inland (at ponds, lakes, prairie potholes, marshlands, including saltmarshes), including the entirety of America’s lower 48 states, so they are common (and well-known to American birdwatchers), so commonly known facts about them will not be repeated here.  Bull & Farrand [noted above, in the entry on Great Blue Heron] reports that the Mallard “is undoubtedly the most abundant duck in the world” (quoting page 392). Mallards are not only relatively ubiquitous, in their migratory or residential ranges (living or visiting in America, wherever migratory or residential ducks might be found), they are not shy around the habitat “edges” of human settlements.  Mallards frequent parks and backyards near ponds or other water bodies (including manmade reservoirs), often learning (and anticipating) that humans might provide bread crumbs or popcorn.  (But if you throw a piece of rotten banana into pond-water the mallards will not eat it.)  Donald Stokes reports that males and females make different noises:  “The quacking sound, which I had assumed that all Ducks made, can be made only by the female.  The male has two other calls of his own – a nasal rhaeb sound and a short Whistle-call, the latter accompanying all of the group courtship displays.”  (Donald W. Stokes, A Guide to Bird Behavior, Volume I (Stokes Nature Guides, Little, Brown & Co., 1979, page 31) Stokes goes on to say (pages 31-32) that this pattern of vocal behavior is not limited to Mallards – it also is observed in similar ducks including Gadwalls, Widgeons, Teals, Black Ducks, and Pintails.  Remember, therefore, if you see a large group of Mallards on a pond, and you hear a lot of quacking, it’s the females who are making all that noise.  (They might be trying to frighten of a turtle or other animal that is getting too close to their ducklings!)

Mallard Duck army marching (I know it's not a King, but it's cute) ©WikiC

Mallard Duck army marching ©WikiC

Mallards have good memories (as do all birds, I assume), and I have personal knowledge of that fact.  More than 15 years ago, my son and I would regularly feed the ducks (mostly mallards, plus lesser scaups during the winter months) at a pond near Furneaux Creek (in Denton County, Texas), in the evening. But one day we were in a hurry — I don’t recall why — so we drove straight home, bypassing the pond, then driving about a block, taking a right turn, then after another block taking another right turn, then driving down the hilly street to near the end of the cul-de-sac in our neighborhood, parking the car by our mailbox. However, as we got out of the car (and I approached our mailbox at the edge of our small front yard), and as we stepped onto the sidewalk toward our home’s front yard, we were greeted by a host of energetically quacking ducks! — apparently they wanted to know why we didn’t make our usual stop to feed them at the pond. Embarrassed, we quickly found something to feed them, and we quickly scattered food scraps on our front yard, to satisfy our avian guests (and they gobbled up all the bread scraps)! Yes, I felt a bit ashamed of myself, that day, for disappointing the mallards that day — but I’m pretty sure that they “forgave” us. Life gets busy — but that should not become an excuse for ignoring those whom we have an opportunity to be kind to (Galatians 6:10), even if they are mallards who live at a nearby pond.

Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) by Lee at Honeymoon Is SP

Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) by Lee at Honeymoon Is SP

DOUBLE-CRESTED  CORMORANT   (Phalacrocorax auritus). The male of this bird is basically black, like a super-sized crow, with a goldish-orange bill and throat pouch, featuring a long neck that is usually posed in an S curve if perching.  (The female’s coloring is lighter – somewhat brownish-grey.)   But why is this bird called “double-crested”?   Don’t expect to observe any “crests” on its head (like a cardinal or a Steller’s jay), much less two of them!   Donald and Lillian Stokes inform us that the description “refers to crests that grow during breeding” that, even then, are “hard to see”.  (Stokes & Stokes, Stokes Field Guide to Birds – Eastern Region [noted above, in entry on Brown Pelican], page 27.)  Stokes & Stokes also note (on page 27) that this cormorant is the most common cormorant seen in the Eastern region of  America, on Atlantic (and Gulf of Mexico) coasts and farther inland, often wintering throughout the eastern half of Texas, and residing year-round in Florida.  (For example, the Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary — located in McKinney, Texas — is a good place to view these cormorants.) Cormorants are known to live in the coastal areas of the Holy Land.  The darting-to-its-prey habit, of diving cormorants, fits the Hebrew noun, shalak, often translated as “cormorant” (see Leviticus 11:17 & Deuteronomy 14:17). Like anhingas, these dark birds perch with outstretched wings, to dry out their wings after diving into and swimming in water for food (usually fish).  Like vultures, eagles, and hawks, these large birds have a bit of difficulty launching their heavy bodies from the ground, so after they do ascend high enough, to reach rising thermal air currents, they position themselves to “ride” those air currents (sometimes ascending as if riding an elevator), soaring and gliding whenever those air currents are conveniently available.   The double-crested cormorant’s neck is crooked in flight, unlike other cormorants.   These are gregarious birds – they nest in colonies and they often fly in groups, either in a straight line of in V formation.  (See Stokes & Stokes, page 27; see also page 361 of Bull & Farrand [noted above, in entry for Great Blue Heron].)

Black Vulture by Lee Myakka SP

Black Vulture by Lee Myakka SP

BLACK  VULTURE (Coragyps atratus). This eagle-like scavenger’s grey face distinguishes it from its cousin, the Turkey Vulture, which has a reddish-pink face Both of those faces are wrinkled, somber-looking, and – to put it bluntly – ugly.  The Black Vulture is distinguished by its conspicuously “short square tail that barely projects from the rear edge of the wings and by a whitish patch toward the wing tip”.  (Quoting Roger Tory Peterson, A Field Guide to the Birds Eastern Birds:  A Completely New Guide to All the Birds of Eastern and Central North America, abbreviated as “Eastern Birds” [Peterson Field Guides, Houghton Mifflin, 1980] page 160, with illustration on page 161.)  Black Vultures are somewhat feistier than their slightly larger cousins; they are known to scare off Turkey Vultures when there is competition for carrion.  (See Bull & Farrand [noted above, in entry for Great Blue Heron] at pages 416-417.   On the average, a Turkey Vulture grows about 4 inches larger than a Black Vulture, — yet both are about 2 feet long, from bill tip to tail tip.  Anyway, a vulture (sometimes colloquially called a “buzzard”) is a vulture is a vulture, and this is a vulture!   Vultures eat dead stuff – and sometimes even defenseless live animals.   Scavengers by God’s design (serving as garbage collectors/processors for this fallen world), vultures love to pick over and eat dead stuff!  God gave it a “naked” (featherless) head, which may be an advantage for keeping rotten food from besmirching its head with contagion, which might be more likely if its head was covered in feathers.  But Black Vultures   —   like other vultures  —   routinely consume flies-infested, rotting, bacteria-breeding dead animal carcasses  — why do they not get sick and die themselves of botulism or some other kind of food poisoning?  Dan “the Animal-man” Breeding has the answer:

“What is a vulture’s job? They find and eat what I call “road pizza.” They basically help keep the environment livable by limiting the build-up of dead animals and the spread of disease. God carefully designed vultures, giving them the needed tools to find, digest, and keep clean after eating dead animals.  Most meat-eating animals can find their dinner because it is mobile. Movement makes finding things easier. Have you noticed that when someone walks through your peripheral vision, you are acutely aware of it? But if you’ve misplaced your keys, it can take hours before you find them. God gave Buzz and vultures like him two special designs to help them find their motionless dinner—keen eyesight and an extraordinary sense of smell.

Black Vultures at Saddle Creek by Lee

Black Vultures at Saddle Creek by Lee

Vultures have very sharp eyesight. Even when they are soaring high above the ground, they can still see everything below them. God even provided them with sunglasses to protect their eyes against the sun’s harsh light. Vultures have dark lines around their eyes, which work the same way as the dark lines underneath a football player’s eyes. The dark color absorbs sunlight, reducing glare.  This way, vultures don’t have to worry about missing a single detail.  The lesser yellow-headed vultures have another advantage over most birds: a keen sense of smell. Their nares, or nose openings, look like holes in their beak. Wind from any direction funnels through the nares, which leads to the largest amount of sniffing possible. Each breeze is loaded with information, so God equipped these vultures with a very large olfactory lobe, able to handle all that information. Once the vultures find their dinner, how can they possibly eat it? Most other animals would get sick from eating dead animals. Why don’t vultures get sick all the time?  God gave them a very special digestive system. The acid in their crop (which functions like our stomach) is one of the strongest in the natural world. Strong enough to kill the harmful bacteria found in their dinner, it keeps them from getting sick from pretty much anything! In fact, vultures can use their digestive juices to defend themselves. If you were to startle a vulture while it was eating, you’d better back up quickly—vultures will vomit on you if you’re not careful. This not only makes them lighter (so they can more easily escape), but with the addition of the digestive acid, their lunch now smells much worse.”

(Quoting from  Dan Breeding, “Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture” [Answers in Genesis, 3-14-AD2012], posted at https://answersingenesis.org/birds/lesser-yellow-headed-vulture/ .)

Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) by Nikhil

Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) by Nikhil

In the Holy Land proper (i.e., Israel), as well as in southwestern Europe and northern Africa to India, there is a vulture – the Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus – a/k/a White Scavenger Vulture) – that appears to match the Hebrew nouns rachma in Leviticus 11:18 (q.v.) and rachamah in Deuteronomy 14:17 (q.v.), and that same bird is nowadays known in Arabic as rachmah, essentially the same word.  (See, accord, George S. Cansdale, All the Animals of the Bible [Zondervan, 1976], pages 145-146.) The Black Vulture soars high in the sky, with a wingspan of about 5 feet (!), often in wide circles, scanning the ground for carrion – something dead yet nutritious to eat.   Scouting for rotting animal carcasses, vultures monitor the land below them:   marshy coastlands, tree-spotted hillsides, grasslands and other open fields, not-so-dense forests, riparian shore-banks, bushy thickets, — and but I’m not sure about the famous Hinckley under-brush of Minnesota (that we have heard so much about from Dr. Stan Toussaint — although he has confirmed that at Hinckley “the men are men, pansies are flowers, and the women are slightly above average”).  The Black Vulture’s body is heavy – like an eagle – so its wing-flappings are few, if possible, to conserve energy.  “Note the quick labored flapping — alternating with short glides”, notices Roger Tory Peterson (Eastern Birds, at page 160).  Its black-to-grey wings are two-tone-colored, with the flight feathers that trail behind the wings being paler (Peterson, Eastern Birds, page 160;  —  see also page 91 of Stokes & Stokes, Eastern Region, noted above in entry on Brown Pelican).  These scavengers are both residents and migrants:  they reside in most of the southern half of America’s lower 48 states, year-round, and summer in the northern half of those states.  Vultures are not picky eaters!  Roadkill, or even a partially picked-over animal carcass, is a wonderful “fast food” for a vulture.  If the roadkill (or other available animal carcass) is large enough it might provide a quick picnic for a family of vultures.

Wow!  That’s just 5 of the 15 birds we observed that morning, in the Webels’ pond-side backyard.   Stay tuned!  God willing, the other 10 birds will be given their proper recognition, at this excellent bird-site!

(On the morning of February 9th, AD2015, from the pond-side backyard of Bob & Marcia Webel (while enjoying breakfast and Christian fellowship with the Webels), I saw 14 birds:  Great Blue Heron, Brown Pelican, Mallard, Double-Crested Cormorant, and Black Vulture  –  as reported above – plus Wood Stork, Lesser Scaup, Osprey, Muscovy Duck, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, White Ibis, Common Tern, and Florida Gallinule, — plus the cooing of a nearby Mourning Dove was clearly recognizable.  It is hoped (D.v.) that later reports can supplement this one, so the latter-listed 10 birds will be properly recognized for their lacustrine appearances that morning.)

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James J. S. Johnson loves duck ponds, having formerly taught Environmental Limnology and Water Quality Monitoring for Dallas Christian College, as well as other courses on ecology and ornithology.  As noted in a recent comment to Emma Foster’s fascinating bird tale “The Old Man and the Ibises” (posted 2-11-AD2015), Jim enjoyed the habit of feeding ducks at a neighborhood pond during years when he lived near Furneaux Creek (in Carrollton, Texas).  Nowadays, from time to time, Jim feeds ducks (mostly mallards) and geese (mostly Canada geese) that visit the pond at the edge of his present home’s backyard.  Backyards and ponds are for bird-watching!

* Other Articles by James J. S. Johnson *

Fair Fowl, Foul Fowl or Some of These Laws Are For The Birds!

Fair Fowl, Foul Fowl

Some of These Laws Are For The Birds!

Deuteronomy 14:12-20 by Francois Maurice

I love drawing birds, so illustrating this passage from Deuteronomy was a natural. I could have chosen the passage from Leviticus 11:13-19. They are identical. The same birds, in the same order with the same sentence structure. What are the odds? This got me scratching my head in quizzical puzzlement. (Wow, four z’s in two words! What are the odds?) Well, it turns out these two books were written by Moses. I didn’t know that then, but I do now! I knew that Moses spent forty days on Mt. Sinai talking to God. What I didn’t know was that, when he climbed down off that obscure, smoking, lightning-illuminated mountain; besides bringing us the Ten Commandments, he also brought the Oral Torah and six hundred thirteen specific and detailed laws meant for the people of Israel.  I want to delve briefly into these laws and to look at kosher laws, what they mean and how they apply to this illustration.

Known as the Mitzvot , these laws address all aspects of human life. There are three hundred sixty five negative and two hundred forty eight positive commandments. The negative ones are the ‘thou shalt nots…” and the positive ones are the ‘thou shalts…’

They are meant to preserve the sanctity of Jewish observance and the holiness of religious practices. They are also meant to encourage a serious perspective and importance to the business of living a meaningful and humble life.  A life that honors God and, as much as an individual is capable of adhering to the Mitzvot, keeps His commandments. This is the subjective part of the intent of Mitzvot . A couple of these laws are, for example, ‘ Know that God’ exists and ‘Do not put the word of God to the test’.

The objective intent of Mitzvot is based on the preservation, purification and health of the Jewish race. The commandments concerning dietary laws are a form of ancient health regulations! For example, the slaughtering of permitted animals is to be done rapidly, by cutting the throat of the animal with an extremely sharp knife with no serrations in the blade. This is considered the most humane way of dispatch. The goal of this type of slaughter is to get rid of as much blood as possible. Ingesting blood is forbidden. The animal is then hung to permit the evacuation of blood. It is then washed,  salted with kosher salt and cooked well. The USDA has determined that this ritual method of slaughter is so sanitary that kosher slaughterhouses are exempt from USDA regulations.

The Mizvot is divided into many categories i.e., Business practices, Clothing, Marriage, Divorce and Family, Treatment of Gentiles, Court and Judicial etc. There are many more but you get the idea.

Most of these worthy commandments have stood the test of time.  Consider the following ones, ‘Not to sell a Hebrew servant as a slave.,  ‘Not to pass a child through the fire to Molech’.,  (referring to child sacrifice),   ‘Not to wear garments made of wool and linen mixed together’.,  ‘To make a parapet for your roof’.?? And my favorite, ‘Not to put olive oil in the meal offering of a woman suspected of adultery’.!!! I presume it’s perfectly acceptable to drizzle olive oil on her matzos if you know she is an adulteress!?

Back to the birds. The forbidden birds in Deuteronomy 14:11-20 are either birds of prey or scavengers. As such, they are indiscriminate in their diet, hunt carrion and  cannibalize. They have sharp talons with strong feet for transporting their prey. Their beaks are sharp and hooked for tearing flesh.  God describes, to Ezekiel, a scene of Gog’s slain army.  Hordes of soldiers are scattered about on the mountains of Israel being devoured by (Ezekiel 39:4) “…the ravenous birds of every sort.” Quite a graphic scene made more dramatic by the presence of birds of prey.Bird of Prey by Francois Maurice

In Isaiah 46:11 God curiously refers to Cyrus the Great as a bird of prey “…a ravenous bird from the east”. It seems an incongruous reference to a man who is revered for his benevolence and justice. Cyrus tolerated and respected the culture and religion of the lands he conquered. Ah, you say! ‘Conquered’ implies blood and cruelty. Well, not in his case as when, in October of 539 BC, he annexed Babylonia without spilling a drop of blood. He then freed the Jews of whom 40,000 returned to their homeland. He then financed the rebuilding of the destroyed Temple in Jerusalem. He doesn’t seem to exhibit the tendencies of birds of prey. Was God implying that Cyrus had the tenacity and single minded intent of a predatory raptor?

Ostrich by Francois Maurice

Ostrich by Francois Maurice

Ostriches are in for some harsh treatment in Job 39:13-18. In a chapter that praises the freedom of the wild ass, the strength of the bull, the fearlessness and strength of the war-horse, the eyesight and flight of the eagle, we see the ostrich laying her eggs out in the open soil.  She is unconcerned that passing beasts will trod on them. She hopes the sun is warm enough to sustain and nurture them. “She is hardened against her young ones, as though they were not hers: her labour is in vain without fear; because God hath deprived her of wisdom, neither hath He imparted to her understanding.” The best that can be said about the ostrich in this passage is that they have wings and feathers to which I ask, “Why?” They can’t fly! Lamentations 4:3 equates the ostrich to a breast feeding sea monster! How weird is that? So- we have a strange looking, eight foot tall, three hundred pound bird who can’t fly but who can outrun a horse and kick a pursuer to death. It’s  eye is bigger that it’s brain, it makes great feather dusters and lives in a commune and hates its kids. God is humorous.

Doves are special in the Bible. They are used metaphorically to describe everything from the Spirit of God descending upon Jesus at His baptism (Mark 1:10), “And straightaway coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him”, to the sorrowful murmurings of Queen Huzzab’s handmaidens. (Nahum 2:7), “And Huzzab shall be led away captive, she shall be brought up, and her maids shall lead her as with the voice of doves, tabering upon their breasts.” This magnificent run-on sentence uses a word that poignantly transforms this scene. Used but a single time in the entire Bible, the word tabering, (to beat on a small drum, tabour), infuses the scene with the pathos of the handmaidens who beat their breasts and mourn the captivity of their beloved queen. Doves, who mate for life, are used here to underscore the loyalty shown by the hand maidens. Notice also, that the phrase “the voice of doves” effectively adds another dimension to this passage. Imagine the queen following the handmaidens as naturally as one’s head turns upon hearing the nearby cooing of a pair of doves.

Doves by Francois Maurice

Doves by Francois Maurice

Francois Maurice

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Lee’s Addition:

Francois is the author of It’s In The Bible! which was illustrations only. He is currently working of Volume Two. When asked to tell me more about himself so I could introduce him, here are parts of that information:

The article above is “one of 15 or so chapters. They are short-two to four pages- of commentary about a particular Bible passage passage. I illustrate it then analyze the theological message. My first book was It’s In The Bible!! and it was illustrations only. Volume two will have the same name since I own it. I also have ItsInTheBible.org and a Facebook page which is being developed to advertise my book. There will be some church related cartoons and some general commentaries on theological subjects along with study questions. Humor is included.”

“I am a committed Christian, on the vestry and many committees of St. John’s Episcopal in Chula Vista, CA.(Sad Diego area). I run a Bible study group there….I write and draw full time.”

“The article I sent you is not “typical” since it is “theme oriented” rather than Bible passage “in depth” study of what is going on in a particular scene. I am very curious and love to do research.”

“I am not an ornithologist however, so themes explored would be more “general” in nature. As you know there is a lot of bird influence throughout the Bible and a lot of material to be explored.”

I am looking forward to reading more articles from him and I trust you will also. Welcome, Francois.

*

Birds of the Bible – Turtle Doves

Oriental Turtle Dove (Streptopelia orientalis) by Nikhil

Oriental Turtle Dove (Streptopelia orientalis) by Nikhil

The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; (Song of Solomon 2:12 KJV)

According to the latest list of Turtle Doves by the I.O.C version 2.5 there are only six doves that bear the name “Turtle Dove.” They are in two genus (groups), the Nesoenas and the Streptopelia. That means that they are closely related, but the ornithologist have divided them that way.

Malagasy Turtle Dove (Nesoenas picturata) ©WikiC

Malagasy Turtle Dove (Nesoenas picturata) ©WikiC

The Malagasy Turtle Dove (Nesoenas picturata) is the only one in the Nesoenas. The Malagasy Turtle-dove (Nesoenas picturata), is also known as the Madagascar Turtle-dove, is a bird species in the pigeon and dove family, Columbidae. It is found in British Indian Ocean Territory, Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mayotte, Réunion, and Seychelles. Its closest relative a Pink Pigeon together they form a lineage apart from both the typical pigeons (Columba) and the typical turtle-doves (Streptopelia).

Adamawa Turtle Dove (Streptopelia hypopyrrha) ©WikiC

Adamawa Turtle Dove (Streptopelia hypopyrrha) ©WikiC

The other five Turtle Doves, the Euopean, Dusky, Adamawa, Oriental, and Red are in the Streptopelia genus. These are mainly slim, small to medium-sized species. The upperparts tend to be pale brown, and the underparts are often a shade of pink. Many have a characteristic black-and-white patch on the neck, and monotonous cooing songs. Mainly in Africa, but several species occur in tropical southern Asia. As a group, this genus is highly successful; many species are abundant in a range of habitats in the tropics, and two now have a much more extensive distribution.

Dusky Turtle Dove (Streptopelia lugens) ©WikiC

Dusky Turtle Dove (Streptopelia lugens) ©WikiC

In Scripture, the Turtle Dove or “turtledove” appears in fifteen verses. Most of those have to do with the turtledove being used as a sacrifice. In Genesis 15:9 the Lord GOD told Abraham to provide one and a pigeon as part of a sacrifice when Abraham was give the covenant of the promised land.

Then in Leviticus a turtledove was used in the burnt offering in Lev. 1:14, two turtledoves for the trespass offering of Lev. 5:7, two for a second burnt offering in Lev. 5:11, for purification after the birth of a child in Lev. 12:6, 8, a sin offering in Lev. 14:22, a sin and a burnt offering in Lev. 14:30, two more offered in Lev. 15:14 and 29.

In Deuteronomy 6:10, two turtledove or pigeons are used for a cleansing.

O deliver not the soul of thy turtledove unto the multitude of the wicked: forget not the congregation of thy poor for ever. (Psalms 74:19 KJV)

European Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur) ©WikiC

European Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur) ©WikiC

Here is what Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible says about the above verse in Psalms: “Psa 74:19 O deliver not the soul of thy turtle-dove – The “life” of thy turtle-dove; or, thy turtle-dove itself. The turtle-dove is a name of endearment for one beloved, in Son. 2:12, and is thus applied here to the people of Israel. The leading idea in such an application of the word is that of innocence, harmlessness, timidity, gentleness. The thought here is that of a people dear to God, now timid and alarmed. It is the prayer of a people beloved by God that he would not deliver them to their enemies. The prayer may be regarded as one which was used on the occasion referred to in the psalm; or, as a general prayer for the people of God, considered as exposed to ravening enemies.”

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes says of Song of Son. 2:12 (quoted at top): “The flowers – The communications of God’s grace, the gifts, and graces, and comforts of the Holy Spirit, are vouchsafed unto, and appear in believers, as buds and blossoms do in the spring. The turtle – This seems particularly to be mentioned because it not only gives notice of the spring, but aptly represents the Spirit of God, which even the Chaldee paraphrast understands by this turtle, which appeared in the shape of a dove, and which worketh a dove – like meekness, and chastity, and faithfulness, in believers.”

Jeremiah speaks of the migration of the turtledove.

Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the LORD. (Jeremiah 8:7 KJV)

RedTurtle Dove (Streptopelia tranquebarica) by Nikhil Devasar

RedTurtle Dove (Streptopelia tranquebarica) by Nikhil Devasar

Last but not least, Mary offered a pair of turtledove at the end of her purification after Jesus was born. The turtledove are in Luke 2:24, but the whole passage from Luke 2:21-39 is worth reading.

Most of the times, not always, the turtledove or pigeons were use in the sacrifices by someone who could not afford an animal like a lamb or a bullock. I find this very comforting because God did not make salvation only for those who could afford it. In fact, none of us can afford the cost of what took for the purchase of our salvation.

Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. (1 Peter 1:18-21 KJV)

The Gospel Message

(All photos may be clicked on – WikiC = Wiki Commons. Hover mouse over underlined verses.)
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Birds of the Bible – Dove’s Eyes and Voice

White-winged Dove by Reinier

Here are some interesting thoughts about the Eyes and Voice of a Dove. We had an Eurasian Collared Dove land in our yard today. What a lovely bird, with such a soft color. I always enjoy watching them.

White-winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica) Eye up close by Reinier

The Eyes of A Dove:

How beautiful you are, my darling, How beautiful you are! Your eyes are like doves.” (Song of Solomon 1:15 NASB)

Solomon is describing his love with terms that today we do not hear in that connection. How romantic to have your eyes compared to a dove’s eyes. At first it seems rather weird, but when you know what dove’s eyes actually look like, you realize that they ARE very beautiful.

Then she describes Solomon.

His eyes are like doves Beside streams of water, Bathed in milk, And reposed in their setting. (Song of Solomon 5:12 NASB)

John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible says of this verse, referring to the meekness of Christ:
his eyes are like “doves’ eyes”; not fierce and furious, but loving and lovely; looking upon his people, under all their trials and afflictions, with sympathy and concern, to deliver them out of them: and like the eyes of doves. ”

The Voice of A Dove:
Then in chapter 2, Solomon goes on to use the dove again to describe her voice.

“Come, my shy and modest dove– leave your seclusion, come out in the open. Let me see your face, let me hear your voice. For your voice is soothing and your face is ravishing.” (Song of Solomon 2:14 MSG)

“It is fixed: She is stripped, she is carried away, And her handmaids are moaning like the sound of doves, Beating on their breasts.” (Nahum 2:7 NASB)

Audio by Andrew Spencer of Mourning Dove’s song.

John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible says, “as with the voice of doves, tabering upon their breasts; mourning like doves, inwardly and secretly, not daring to express their sorrow more publicly, because of their enemies; but knocking and beating upon their breasts, as men do upon tabrets or drums, thereby expressing the inward grief of their minds; see Eze_7:16.”

Audio of Mourning Dove beating its wings by Andrew Spencer

Sounds are from Xeno-canto.org


See the Dove and Pigeons Page

Doves are in the Columbidae Family of the Columbiformes Order