By Peter Millin
“Noah sent out a dove from the Ark and when it returned with an olive-leaf in its beak he knew the waters had receded. A white dove with a leaf in its beak has become the symbol of peace. We have been associated with doves since time immemorial and today they are perhaps the most common of birds around us. They are so common that we hardly even spare them a glance: yet they exhibit the most beautiful shades of subtle purples, blues, browns, and cinnamon. They have distinctive and most pleasing calls easily recognizable.
There are several species of the dove of which in Clarens we have three main types, two of which are illustrated here. The Cape (Red Eyed) turtledove has a distinct black half collar on top of its neck; the Laughing (Palm) Dove has no such collar – the only dove without one. It does, however, have an attractive and diagnostic black speckled necklace across its cinnamon breast. and prominent white tail feathers in flight – more so than the Turtle. Just look at him through binocs to see what I, mean. Beautiful. Then there is the Red eyed dove, similar to the Cape Turtle. but larger and darker while its pink head and red eye ring are clearly seen.
We were recently on holiday in Greece and felt very welcome there when we heard the familiar call of doves and saw they were very similar to our doves.
Pigeons are somewhat larger than doves and we find two species in Clarens: the handsome Speckled (Rock) pigeon with his reddish wings speckled with white and the red patches around the eyes. They circle around at dusk and we have up to 20 perching on our roof. The other pigeon is the African Olive (Rameron) pigeon easily identified by his bright yellow beak and legs. They are often seen as a dark rather ungainly bird high up in trees such as the gums near the school.
Many years ago the main funeral undertakers in Johannesburg was “Doves” Their advertisement stated:”Storks brought you into the world; let Doves take you out”
You may sometimes see a Namaqua Dove in the Clarens area but he is really a resident of the drier western parts of the country.”