FYI Doves Can't Actually Cry

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Okay, so I don’t want to be That Girl because our national public grief is sincere and beautiful, and Prince and his work meant a lot to a lot of people, and still does, and will for generations, but I thought you guys should know that doves can’t actually cry.


Former San Diego Zoo assistant librarian Kaitlyn Tierney, who’s written about animal behavior for Jezebel before, explained why in an email:

Basically, “crying” as a physical response to pain or grief is a uniquely mammalian trait. Birds make all kinds of vocalizations that might sound like cries, but they’re generally relating to more basic biological responses like mating or aggression displays.

So, this is what it sounds like when doves are flirting or fucking, more like.

Mammalian crying can be thought of in two different ways: as a way of expressing emotion or as a way of communicating. Apes and monkeys have been known to vocalize in ways that resemble crying, according to Scientific American, like when they are scared or being weaned or are injured. But only humans can produce the tears associated with what we call crying.

“Scientists commonly try to avoid attributing interpretations of human behavior when trying to understand the behavior of other primates,” explained comparative developmental psychologist Kim A. Bard in SciAm. “This is especially true when it comes to emotions.”

Bard wrote, “[Most] take a conservative stance and say that it is too difficult to tell whether [primates] do have feelings. Moreover, if they do have feelings, it is difficult to discern whether they are feeling anything similar to our feelings. Many scientists thus refrain from using the word crying when referring to nonhumans, preferring to talk about distress vocalizations, or describe the acoustical properties of the sound.”


Also, the actual song, “When Doves Cry,” is likely about an abusive relationship (“Why do we scream at each other/This is what it sounds like/When doves cry,”), rendering yesterday’s oft-invoked Twitter eulogy particularly inappropriate. So, yeah. Doves are not crying right now, babes, people are.

Image via Kostenko Maxim/Shutterstock.


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