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Birds In The Bible: A Fascinating Look At The Symbolism Of Doves And Sparrows

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Have you ever wondered what the Bible says about birds?

Birds are mentioned numerous times in the Bible. There are many references to birds in the Bible – nearly 300 of them! In an archived article in Ministry magazine, the author, a professor from Emmanuel Missionary College, writes, “More than one hun­dred of these merely use the word “fowl” or “bird,” leaving the reader to guess at the species.

It is interesting to note that in the Old Testament, birds of the sky are written about much more frequently than in the New Testament.

For example, Moses, in Genesis, alone, refers to birds dozens of times, but, Paul mentions birds only twice in all of his writings.

Here’s a quick rundown:

Bird(s) – Mentioned 42 times in the Old Testament, and seven times in the New Testament.

Fowls of the air – Mentioned 74 times in the Old Testament, and 11 times in the New Testament.

Turtledove(s) (Turtle, Pigeon(s)) – Mentioned 66 times in the Old Testament, and 11 times in the New Testament.

*Note that all mentions of Turtle in the Bible are referring to the Turtledove, not the reptile.

Some of these mentions of birds in the Bible are simply referring to birds, themselves (fowl or bird), while others are used to teach us spiritual lessons.

 In this post, we will focus on just two types of birds in the Bible: Doves and Sparrows. (You can read about Eagles, Ravens, and unclean birds in this post). While I would love to include all of the birds in the Bible, we’ll start with these two in our study of birds in the Bible and their meanings. Additional posts on the fish of the sea and the flowers of the field, as well as wild animals, can be found as well).

The symbolism of birds in the Bible

Doves in the Bible

יונה (pronounced yo-nah)

*TIP:  Yonah, a dove, is the exact same Hebrew name as the prophet Jonah. ‘J’ sounds do not exist in Hebrew, and if you came across an English biblical name with this letter, you can convert the ‘J’ to a ‘Y’ and keep the vowels as they are.

The dove, or ‘yonah,’ written in the Bible, is much more than just a beautiful, common bird. References to the dove are full of symbolism.

Though most of us think of doves as pure and pigeons as dirty, bird experts will confirm that they are, indeed, the same bird.

In each of the gospels, a dove appears as the Spirit of God. Most of us envision a beautiful, pure white bird. However, the bird that appeared at the baptism was most likely a “rock dove,” a common species in the geography and time period.

A rock dove is grey with an iridescent green and purple/violet neck. Basically, my friends, a pigeon. (you tube dove sounds)

You are probably thinking, “So, you are saying, that the beautiful symbol of the Holy Spirit and the symbol of city scavengers is one and the same”?

Yes. In fact, I think it is a fitting example, as Christianity can be messy. God did not promise us an easy road. 

 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” 

John 16:33 (ESV)

Pigeons are often seen as dirty or disdained. Do you ever feel like that in your Christian walk? Looked down upon or judged because your beliefs don’t line up with mainstream society?

The Lord God makes us new when we are filled with the Holy Spirit. A trashy, garbage-picking bird is also the symbol of peace and new life. We have God’s protection and God’s love that never fails and never changes.

God’s heart, kindness, and compassion are so deep and wide that it extends to the smallest of creatures and the haughtiest of them (the human!).

Sparrows have also been referenced as symbols of freedom, in particular, the freedom for humans to have free will and choose between good and evil.

A single sparrow on a roof represented sadness, depression, and insignificance.

How fitting!

Let’s take a look at some important Bible verses about doves:

Doves are mentioned frequently in God’s Word – nearly fifty times!

The Dove as a Symbol of Peace

When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth. – Genesis 8:11

The dove is the symbol of peace on Earth. This dove brought back an olive branch to confirm that the floodwaters had receded and that it was safe to exit the ark. God’s punishment had ended, and it was time to repopulate the earth. The dove is one of the most commonly mentioned birds in the Bible.

The Dove as a Symbol of Love

The dove is also used as a metaphor for beauty and love, as shown in the below verses in Song of Songs (Song of Solomon).

Behold, you are beautiful, my love;
    behold, you are beautiful;
    your eyes are doves.

Song of Songs 1:15 (ESV)

I slept, but my heart was awake.
A sound! My beloved is knocking.
“Open to me, my sister, my love,
    my dove, my perfect one,
for my head is wet with dew,
    my locks with the drops of the night.”

Song of Songs 5:2 (ESV)

His eyes are like doves
    beside streams of water,
bathed in milk,
    sitting beside a full pool.

Song of Songs 5:12 (ESV)

The most powerful symbolism of the Dove in the Bible, however, is in the Spirit of God appearing as a dove.

 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Luke 3:22 (ESV)

And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him;

Matthew 3:16 (ESV)

The Holy Spirit is just that—a spirit—He is not visible to us in a physical way. In these accounts, however, the Spirit of God took on a visible appearance and could be seen by witnesses.

That symbol is just so powerful, so beautiful.

Purity, love, peace. All describing our Heavenly Father. 

I also think this can be a metaphor for our faith. Faith cannot be seen, but how can you live in such a way that people can SEE your faith?

(Click the image below for a downloadable/printable PDF of images with birds and nests to use in your war binder, Bible journaling, or other forms of creative worship.)

Sparrows in the Bible

Sparrows are next in the most referenced birds of the Bible. The Hebrew word for sparrow is צִפּוֹר   “tzippor”, which not only means sparrow, but any small bird. This Hebrew word occurs more than forty times in the Old Testament and just two times in the New Testament.

Sparrows are small brown and gray birds that tend to always be in the company of others. They were abundant in Bible geography. Sparrows like to build nests in vineyards and bushes as well as the eaves of homes or other nooks and crannies. They hide in the rocky crag.

The sparrow’s diet consists of seeds, green buds, and small insects and worms.

Most are musical and sing sweet songs as they go about their bird business. (Listen to the beautiful sparrow call on this youtube video of sparrow sounds)

Sparrows, in biblical times, were held in contempt. They had little worth and were seen to be annoying.

The sparrow, however, was what the son of man referred to when illustrating our worth to God.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.

Matthew 10:29 (ESV)

If a lowly bird, with little worth, receives the care of Our Heavenly Father, the love and attention He shows us is much greater.

God’s heart, kindness, and compassion are so deep and wide that it extends to the smallest of creatures and the haughtiest of them (the human!).

Sparrows have also been referenced as symbols of freedom, in particular, the freedom for humans to have free will and choose between good and evil.

A single sparrow on a roof represented sadness, depression, and insignificance.

I lie awake;
    I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop.

Psalm 102:7 (ESV)

Let’s look at some more Bible verses about sparrows that demonstrate just how important we are to God. They are all from the gospels. You will, however, find many references to birds in the Bible in the book of Psalms. I find it so valuable to know that these verses were important enough for all of the gospel writers to include. You are so important to God. He loves you and cares for you, even more than a “lowly” sparrow.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  
And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Matthew 6:25-34 (ESV)

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Matthew 10:29-31 (ESV)

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God.

Luke 12:6 (ESV)

In the above verses, the disciples are reminding us that we are so valuable to God. 

To be transparent with you, I struggle with this. Although I believe and trust God when He tells us that our sins were wiped clean when the King of Israel died on the cross for us, I sometimes feel so unworthy of His unyielding love. I look at my sin and feel shame when I know that He has taught us that “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12. When I’m feeling this way, I like to refer to these scriptures that emphasize just how loved we are by our Heavenly Father. Birds are a reminder of God that He will carry us through difficult times, and we will always have God’s care and God’s provision.

Grab your free three-page downloadable, printable PDF with Bible verses about birds for you to use for further study or for your Bible journaling or War Binder, or just to keep as a reminder.



3-Page Printable to dive deeper into what the Bible says about birds


Bible verses about birds pdf screenshot


Do You Love Nature?  Do You Find Bible Symbolism Fascinating?

209 pages of nature symbolism in the Bible! Dive into what the Bible says about many different things in nature from animals to water and from clay to rainbows. Read about and study the fascinating symbolism of God’s creation and learn more about His character.

cover of symbolism of nature in the Bible

You may enjoy this fascinating video about bats and birds in the Bible.

Birds In The Bible: A Fascinating Look At The Symbolism Of Doves And Sparrows 1

Birds In The Bible: A Fascinating Look At The Symbolism Of Doves And Sparrows 2

What is your favorite Bible verse about birds? Do you, like me, sometimes struggle with feeling deserving of the value our Lord God places on us? I’d love to hear your story.

In His Perfect and my imperfect Love,


For references in the Bible on Open Doors see HERE or Closed Doors see HERE

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Thursday 29th of June 2023

This was amazing to read. Pigeon sounds always make me calm. How wonderful it was to see that is really God showing me He is in control of my life

Susan Nelson

Thursday 29th of June 2023

I'm so glad that it blessed you! Thank you for stopping by and reaching out. God bless you!

Bryan Esse

Monday 8th of August 2022

Matthew chapter 6 is also forever "sparrow". Your article rightly places this verse in the sparrows in the bible section. Today sparrows has been replaced with birds of the air or fowls of the air. There is a famine for the word of God that has begun, yet The Word ( Jesus! ) that is hidden in our heart is never corruptible. Blessings and joy to you and yours in Jesus. Thank you for the article. It is a treasure to me! Bryan

Susan Nelson

Monday 15th of August 2022

I'm so very glad to hear that the post blessed you! God bless you and thank you for stopping by!


Wednesday 13th of July 2022

Interesting topic. I do believe though, that during our Lord Jesus baptism, the dove representing the pure Holy Spirit of God would have been white. God would give only His best to His son. But, As it doesn’t say the doves colour in Gods word, it’s nothing to disagree on.


Wednesday 23rd of March 2022

Dearest Sue, thank you so much for sharing this information. I especially appreciated your article on depression. It really soothed my anxious mind. It is precisely the way you described it. I also think my family would be so much better off without me. I am not alone and yes I also pray about it constantly. I will pray for you too. Thank you, once again. Love Abigail.

Susan Nelson

Thursday 24th of March 2022

I'm so glad to hear that! Depression can be debilitating, and God knows and hears our hurts. Please give it to him. If you need meds, there's nothing wrong with that! I am lifting you in prayer!

Birds In The Bible A Look At Doves And Sparrows In Scripture | My Blog

Thursday 12th of November 2020

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