I’ve been staying with my mother in Palm Coast, Florida, while renovations are being done on my place. Four days ago, as I was driving across a toll bridge near her house, I saw white feathers flying around on the roadway. I knew what I would see next—a white dove had been run over in the middle of the bridge. (Anyone who knows me knows that I love birds like crazy, and doves are my favorite of all of them, so I was horrified.)
Although it happens sometimes, wild birds don’t get run over very often unless they’re injured or sick (and there are no white doves in the wild down here anyway). Having kept white doves myself in the past, I knew that this had to have been a domesticated bird, and that he or she had probably just sat and watched in confusion as the car approached. White ringnecks are intelligent and beautiful, but they are also incredibly placid and slow-moving. I knew that the bird, however he or she had gotten there, hadn’t had a chance.
Two days later I went outside to pick up my mother’s mail. To the side of her driveway was a pile of pure white feathers–another white dove, apparently killed by a hawk or something else that would leave nothing but feathers. And again I knew that the victim wouldn’t have had a clue about the danger until it was too late. Of all the driveways in all the cul-de-sacs in my mother’s “gated community” this one had to be the one where another dove met his or her violent end. It almost seemed that I was meant to have come across the remains of the two doves, because if anyone would be motivated to do something to prevent it from happening again, it would be me.
I didn’t take much for me to figure out what had almost undoubtedly happened a few days earlier–someone had had a wedding or something, and had paid to have a pair of white doves released as a symbol of…whatever. As far as I’m concerned, it was a symbol of human cruelty and thoughtlessness for the sake of a profit.
I’m not a fan of the whole “dove release” thing in general–there are just too many risks out there for domesticated birds (especially here in Florida, where there are so many predators). However, I do know that there are people who do the dove releases in a professional way, with trained birds and only under specific conditions. (There are professional organizations that list those people/companies.) And then there are the sons-of-bitches who don’t.
I assume that the culprit in the deaths of the two doves I found was a local Palm Coast company, but I can’t say with certainty which one it was (fortunate for them). But I’m posting this so that when people Google “Palm Coast dove release”, or “dove release” in general, they will be aware that there are ways to give their “symbols” at least a fighting chance to survive the occasions.
Professional dove releasers do NOT use the pretty (and kind of dopey-acting) little white ringneck doves that are available for very little money in pet-stores. They actually use white rock doves, which are larger than ringnecks, stronger flyers, and can be trained to more safely find their way back home after a release. Visit this link to see the difference, and to get other useful information about how to find an ethical dove-releaser in your area:
The site also mentions that ethical dove-releasers will not do a release in bad weather, or so late in the day that the birds don’t have adequate time to get home before dark.
If you really feel that your wedding, funeral, or other special occasion won’t be special enough unless it includes a dove release, please don’t make the unnecessary and cruel deaths of defenseless birds part of it. Please take the time to find a professional handler, and ask a lot of questions.
Better yet, watch some wild birds pass above you, and see their beauty and freedom as a symbol of whatever it is you’re commemorating.
UPDATE: If you’ve come to this post–particularly if you’ve found a lost dove or pigeon–please read the update I recently posted, here: