Dove Meaning: What Does It Mean if You See a Mourning Dove?

Updated: May 03, 2024

What does it mean when a mourning dove visits you? Find out if seeing or hearing a mourning dove has meaning or significance.

Do Mourning Doves Have Special Meaning?

mourning dove meaningCourtesy Patti Seegers
Mourning doves sightings are meaningful for some people.

Is there a meaning in a mourning dove visit? The mourning dove is considered by many to be a sign of hope, love and freedom. Doves are also a universal symbol of peace and often associated with the holiday season. Turtledoves are mentioned as a gift in the carol, the 12 Days of Christmas.

Some bird lovers report experiencing a feeling of comfort when a mourning dove visits. Others believe that it’s a message from a loved one or a reminder of someone who is no longer present in your life but is missed and remembered.

“Most doves mate for life, and I find that so amazing and sweet,” says Birds & Blooms reader Leah Ellenberger.

Discover 13 fascinating mourning dove facts.

Name Meaning: Mourning Dove or Morning Dove?

mourning dove call soundCourtesy Tim Deitz
Mournings doves get their name from their mournful call.

The mourning dove (Zenaida macroura) is a member of the dove family, Columbidae. The bird is sometimes mistakenly thought to be named a “morning” dove because its cooing sounds are often heard early in the day. The bird is also sometimes known as the American mourning dove, the rain dove, and the turtledove (which is actually a different bird).

The correct name is mourning dove, which refers to the distinctive sad, sorrowful coo-oo sound the bird makes. The call is sometimes confused for a hooting owl. Additionally, a mourning dove’s wings make a muffled whistling sound.

“Even though the low, sorrowful sound may seem to signify melancholy, the mourning dove is considered to be a spiritual messenger of peace, faith and love,” says reader Tim Deitz.

Mourning dove vs pigeon: what’s the difference?

Spiritual Meaning

mourning dove meaningCourtesy Brittany Martin
Many find comfort or hope from seeing mourning doves.

Some people believe that the sight of a mourning dove is a message from God, angels, or other spiritual guides. In the Old Testament of the Bible, a dove is a symbol of reconciliation, forgiveness and peace. In the book of Genesis, after the flood, a dove returned to Noah holding an olive leaf.

To hear the cooing of a mourning dove can be understood as a call to seek and find inner peace. In Christianity, a white dove often symbolizes the Holy Spirit.

“I’m just a beginning photographer and birder for two years, but I’ve become obsessed by them. They bring so much joy to my life. I love doves for what they symbolize: peace, love and hope. Today, these things seem so much more important to concentrate on,” says reader Jenni Daigle.

Don’t miss 25 breathtaking mourning dove pictures.

Message From Loved Ones

Mourning dovesCourtesy Teresa Taylor
Mourning doves can symbolize peace or love.

Some believe that the meaning of a mourning dove is a visit or sign of encouragement from a friend or family member. Doves provide comfort because they help people remember their loved ones are watching over them. The birds’ soft cooing song and romantic behavior toward their mates send a powerful energy of love.

“This beautiful pair of mourning doves (above) presented a pose that caught my attention. Being a symbol of peace, these two gracefully formed a heart shape between them as they perched in perfect harmony together creating a special mood,” says reader Teresa Taylor.

Psst—you won’t believe how fast mourning doves build nests.

Dove Meaning: A Sign of Remembrance

A white dove flying out of handsJohn Scott/Getty Images
White dove release

At a funeral or memorial service, a dove release may help mourners begin the grieving process. The “letting go” of white doves reflects the “letting go” of a loved one. This inspirational act peacefully honors the memory of the departed.

Doves are a gentle reminder to help you get back into harmony and follow the flow of life. In the case of grief, seeing a dove may be a sign that spiritual love surrounds you. Embracing its presence can be cathartic. It can serve as a catalyst for allowing the healing process to begin.

Doves may also remind us to hold on to hope and not fear death—rather, think of it as a new beginning.

A white winged dove perching at a platform feeder.Courtesy Colleen Gibbs
A white-winged dove

“Edge of Seventeen (Just Like the White Winged Dove)” is a song by singer and songwriter Stevie Nicks, released in 1982. Nicks wrote the lyrics to express the grief she was feeling after the death of John Lennon and her uncle Jonathan during the same week in December 1980.

Nicks explains the white-winged dove in the song represents the spirit leaving the body at the time of death and finding peace.

Next, learn about mourning dove eggs and baby mourning doves.