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A release dove, also called a white pigeon, is a domestic rock dove (Columba livia domestica) bred for small size and white coloration that is released during events, such as public ceremonies, weddings and funerals.
Albinism or other genetic anomalies that produce an entirely white dove occur very rarely in the wild since an all-white coloration would make these birds stand out in their natural habitats, leaving them highly vulnerable to predators. Most white doves are domesticated ringneck doves (Streptopelia risoria) that have been bred as pets, however, ringneck doves are considered too fragile to use for dove releases and do not have any homing abilities. Rock doves, on the other hand, do have homing abilities.
Although dove release businesses advertise that their birds will be able to safely return home, released “doves” are frequently killed in accidents or by predators before they can return home.
The pigeons bred for dove release services are bred for their color and small size, not for their homing abilities or flight speed, as a result, some birds are attacked by predators moments after they are released. Some released birds become confused and are found injured or dead nearby their original release site. Since these are domesticated birds, they do not possess the instincts or skills to survive in the wild.
Increased public awareness about animal cruelty, and the influx of injured or lost release doves in animal shelters is decreasing the demand for release dove services.
Dove release incidents
The Vatican no longer engages in the releasing of doves after multiple occasions where released doves were attacked by predatory birds as onlookers watched. The notoriety of this event generated a public outcry for the Vatican to halt this practice.
The last occasion where doves were released by the Vatican occurred in 2014. Pope Francis released two birds that would not fly out of the window of the papal apartment and required several attempts to get the birds to fly out over a crowd of spectators. Immediately, the two birds were attacked by a seagull and crow as spectators watched.
A similar incident occurred just the year prior at an event where Pope Benedict XVI released doves during a Holocaust remembrance event. The doves were attacked by a seagull, with one dove being singled out and injured.
- "Why dove releases are cruel".
- "How killer birds forced Pope Francis to change a Vatican tradition: Releasing doves for peace". Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-07-23.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Columba livia.|
- Professional White Dove Release Association - US, Canada, Great Britain
- National Pigeon Association (USA)
- American Racing Pigeon Union
- International Federation of American Homing Pigeon Fanciers
- National Pigeon Association (Great Britain)
- Canadian Racing Pigeon Union
- The Canadian Pigeon Fanciers Association
- National White Dove Release Society