A commenter from The Wuggy Chronicles just asked in our Share section:
I have been wondering why in many translations, “peristera” is translated as “dove” in John 1:32, but rendered “pigeon” in 2:14,16. An important layer of poetry is lost by using a different word there, so I’m curious about what tradeoffs motivated that (pretty common) decision.
I enjoy answering this kind of question since it involves looking at a number of different English Bible versions which I like doing.
First, I can’t speak to tradeoffs that motivated the decision not to use the same bird name in the two passages in John. I seldom have any idea what motivates a translation team to translate as they have unless they explicitly say what their motivation is. I agree with you: I see no reason to use a different bird name in the two passages. I believe that the versions that use the same English bird name to translate the same Greek New Testament bird name are clearer for English readers that the same bird is referred to.
Now, to the first part of your comment, the versions I have viewed which use the words “dove” and “pigeons” in the two passages are RSV, ESV (essentially the RSV with doctrinal revisions of a few verses), REB, GNT, and GW. I cannot think of anything these versions have in common that are different from other versions.
Versions which use “dove” and “doves” are: KJV, Douay-Rheims, NASB, NWT, NKJV, NIV, NRSV, CEV, NJB, NAB, NLT, NCV, TM, NET, HCSB, ISV, and CEB.
By my count, the score is 4 versions (5 if ESV is counted as a different version from RSV) that use “dove” and “pigeons” and 17 versions which use “dove” and “doves.”