by The Old Scott
What is it that is known everywhere as a symbol of peace, that drinks its mother's milk; and is able to find its way home across hundreds of miles of trackless waste?
The answer: pigeons!
The dove-which is part of the pigeon family-is the symbol of peace around the world. This is very appropriate, for doves and pigeons never try to hurt anything. We'll have more to say about doves and peace a little later, but first let's check out "mother's milk":
Can it be that baby pigeons actually drink mother's (and father's!) milk? "But everybody knows that birds aren't mammals and hence can't give milk!" Agreed, but pigeons come close. They are the only bird parents that feed their chicks with a liquid which really is called "pigeon milk." It's not true milk, of course-but you can bet baby pigeons don't mind!
"Pigeon milk" actually comes from the lining of the crop-that muscular chamber where pebbles crush and grind the bird's food, serving the same purpose as teeth. The hormone prolactine controls the process-and prolactine is the same hormone which causes cows to produce milk. So perhaps the term "pigeon milk" isn't far-fetched after all.
Both parents produce this "milk." The hungry chicks stick their beaks down mom's or pop's throat and drink their fill. Incidentally, being able to actually drink by sucking up liquid is another unique pigeon talent. All other birds have to drink by taking a beakful of water and then raising their heads to let the fluid flow down their throats.
Among His special provisions for pigeons, God planned that the chicks wouldn't grow feathers around their faces until they are ready to begin eating seeds like their parents. Why? You wouldn't wonder why, if you were a mamma or papa pigeon: Imagine how it would feel if Junior insisted on sticking a faceful of feathers down your throat every time he got hungry!
The final clue to our puzzle was the ability to find home, when home should be impossible to find. This is a talent which homing pigeons possess to an uncanny degree. It has been shown over and over that homing pigeons can be taken in blacked-out cages hundreds of miles away from their home, without getting lost. In fact, armies began taking advantage of this ability more than 3,000 years ago, by using pigeons as battlefield messengers.
There are other birds-and a few insects!-that year after year are able to find their way across land or sea for hundreds, even thousands, of miles. But pigeons can do far more than follow a set pathway through the sky. They can find home every time, when home may be in a different direction each time. Their secret is as mysterious today as it was 3,000 years ago.
There is one more quality about the dove which we must mention, and that is that it represents not merely peace, but the God of peace, and God's Holy Spirit. It was a dove which returned to Noah in the Ark, bearing an olive leaf as a sign that the Great Flood was over. It was also the form of a dove which fluttered down upon Jesus at His baptism, as a sign from God that this was His beloved Son (Matt. 3:16). In Luke 3:22, this is specifically revealed as the Holy Spirit, shown to men in the shape of a dove.
Ever since then, the dove has been the symbol of God's watch over His creation. The Bible tells us that God sent His Holy Spirit into the world to convict the world of sin, and of righteousness and of judgment (John 16:8). God's Spirit is still doing this in our world, calling men everywhere to repent of their wickedness and to call upon the Son of God, that they might have everlasting life.
Think of this, whenever you see a dove or pigeon.
Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia, Vol. 8, Bernhard Grzimek, Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., NY & London, 1987, p. 248.