Valentine’s Day – A Tradition Of Birds And Spring

by Larry Jordan on February 14, 2009

Mourning Dove photo by Larry Jordan

There are many stories of the origin of Saint Valentine’s Day but my favorite one is simple.  Europeans believed that February 14th the birds began to choose their mates.  The tradition of birds choosing their mates on Valentine’s Day led to the idea that boys and girls would do the same.

This European Christian tradition of drawing names for Valentine’s Day meant that the young boy who drew a girls name, wore it on his sleeve and protected that girl for that entire year.  This made the girl his valentine and they exchanged love tokens throughout the year.  Many engagements and marriages were begun this way.

These sentiments of Saint Valentine’s Day were expressed by Michael Drayton, a contemporary of William Shakespeare, this way:

Must, bid the Morn awake!
Sad Winter now declines,
Each bird doth choose a mate;
This day’s Saint Valentine’s.
For that good bishop’s sake
Get up and let us see
What beauty it shall be
That Fortune us assigns.

When I came upon two Mourning Doves recently, they were sitting in a pine tree.  They looked as if they were kissing and “rubbing noses” as they were choosing each other as their Valentines.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Bird Girl February 14, 2009 at 2:10 pm

Oh! I did not know that! How cool is that? I love the thought of birds choosing their mates on Valentine’s Day – SWEET!
Thanks for the info, Larry!

Bird Girls last blog post..T-R-O-U-B-L-E with a capital ‘T’!


Vickie February 14, 2009 at 3:01 pm

Enjoyed your Valentine’s Day tradition review. Funny that I saw two mourning doves cooing together on a limb near my feeders today and one flew down and foraged on the ground. This is the first time I’ve seen them in the feeder area.

Vickies last blog post..How Many Purple Finches?


kallen305 February 14, 2009 at 4:15 pm

Larry, I didn’t know either of those factoids. Very cool.

I have noticed the past week or so many bird couples together. I have a pair of mockers, house finches and even cardinals coming in twos. I t hink Europeans were onto something with their theory. It gives a much more romantic meaning to the meaning of Valentines day instead of 1-800 Flowers or Pajamagrams! ;o) LOL

kallen305s last blog post..Great Backyard Bird Count-Valentines Day


Larry February 14, 2009 at 10:40 pm

@Barb you are very welcome and Happy Valentine’s Day to you. It looks like your Bluebirds knew about it!

@Vickie thanks. Maybe you will get Mourning Doves coming more often to your feeders now

@Kallen you crack me up 🙂 but I think you’re right about those Europeans being on to something


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