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General Information

What’s the difference between a dove and a pigeon?
The term “dove” and “pigeon” are one and the same and are used interchangeably. The word pigeon usually denotes a larger bird and dove a smaller bird.

How many breeds of doves are there?
There are no breeds of doves, only species. There are close to 300 species of doves and pigeons.

What species of doves are suited for the novice?
Dove species that are especially recommended for the novice are common ringneck or Barbary doves (Streptopelia risoria) and diamond doves (Geopelia cuneata).

What is a mutation?
A mutation is a color or pattern difference that may occur in a species. Mutations should not be confused with albinos. Several years ago in Australia, a mutation of common bronzewings were produced from normal parents. Unfortunately, the buff-colored young did not survive.

Do all doves coo?
Yes, but each species sounds different. Peruvian ground doves (Columbina cruziana) sound like small croaking frogs. Black-wing ground doves (Metriopelia melanopter) chirp like birds. Each species has its own unique coo!

Will dove species interbreed?
No, unless forced to by isolating them. Cross-species breeding is exceedingly rare.

What’s a dove Hybrid?
Hybrids are young of parents from two different species (i.e. a ringneck dove (Streptopelia risoria) and a European turtle dove (Streptopelia turtur); they are different species, but belong to the same genus.

How will the doves I buy be shipped?
Doves should be shipped in special cardboard boxes. The top of the box should have soft foam rubber to prevent the doves from banging their heads. Arrangements should be made for pickup within 24 hours.

Can I make pets out of wild doves?
No, nor should you try. If pets are the goal, domestic or semi-domestic doves should be kept.

How long do doves live?
In the wild, life-spans are short -3 to 5 years. In captivity doves can live to be 12 to 15 years old. It is not uncommon to hear of some doves living beyond 20 years.
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What do doves eat?
Most doves are seedeaters. We will not discuss fruit and vegetable-eating doves. Seedeaters can be fed finch mix, cockatiel mix, wild bird seed, and semisoft dog food (such as Ken-L-Ration’s Moist and Beefy). Dog food is put in the food processor, and a tablespoon is put on the seed daily (1 teaspoon for fewer than four doves). As a special treat, doves like leafy vegetables, broccoli, cut up apples, bread crumbs, mashed hard boiled eggs, and occasionally mealworms. Fresh water and grit should always be provided. Oyster shells and chicken eggshells baked in the oven for several hours at 300 degrees Fahrenheit and crushed finely make an excellent source of calcium.
Doves also like vegetables, cooked rice, leafy vegetables, peanut butter, grated cheese, and mashed hard boiled eggs. Some doves have to learn to eat other foods. Most doves will soon eat vegetables and fruit with gusto.

Are mealworms good for doves?
Mealworms are an excellent source of vitamins for birds. Mealworms should be fed sparingly; too many can cause fatty liver disease.

How many times a day should I feed my doves?
Some avian fanciers leave lots of seed available for their doves. Others separate the seed in separate containers, and it is hoped that the doves will select their favorite seed first, but later learn to eat a balanced diet of seeds. We feed our doves once a day; in the evening. We know how much the doves will eat, so there is little waste or no waste to attract rats and mice. We also use a shot glass of niger seed thrown onto the pebbled flights. Doves are active all day, searching out these tidbits. We believe that in their natural state, doves work hard at finding food. The challenge provided here keeps our doves active and in top shape. Overfed, fat doves are not active and are “bored.” Of course, if we are gone for the weekend, feed hoppers or containers are filled to allow birds to eat at will.

What vitamins do doves need?
Once a week we put cod liver oil and brewers yeast on the seed. Avian veterinarians can suggest the appropriate vitamins and minerals.

What type of containers should be used?
Small seed hoppers, trays, and dishes all can be used as seed feeders. Keep feed containers away from places where they can be soiled by droppings. Sterilize seed dishes regularly. Cleanliness is extremely important to keep doves healthy.

How do I keep water fresh?
Change the water often. One or two drops of bleach in a gallon of water will keep water free of algae. Keep water fountains away from perches. Covered water fountains are best in keeping droppings out of the water. ^back to top


Can I keep foreign doves in a bird cage?
No, foreign doves are wild creatures, and a bird cage is too small to make the dove feel safe and secure. Wild, foreign doves should be kept in spacious aviaries.

What type of aviary should doves be kept in?
The largest, best one you can afford! The ideal aviary should not have less than 10 square feet per pair for small doves and double that for large species.

Can I keep other avian species with doves?
Yes, compatible species can be kept together in a roomy aviary. Compatibility is important; even gentle species can have individuals that are aggressive. Observe your doves to see if they are living together harmoniously. During breeding, even gentle species can be quite aggressive to ward other doves.

Can doves be kept outdoors during the winter?
Many species can be sheltered outside as long as the aviary is dry, insulated, draft free, and located in a sunny location.

What type of floor should I have in my dove aviary?
Aviary floors can be wooden and off the ground, cement, or dirt. We prefer dirt with a berm at least 18 inches deep around the aviary. We use pebbles on the top of the dirt, or small bark and have various plants growing in the aviary. Some of our aviaries have wooden floors, and we use corn cob litter to keep them dry and clean.

What size wire should be used for flypens or flights?
Wire for dove aviaries should be 1/2 inch or smaller. Chicken wire is not acceptable. Avian wire (smaller version of chicken wire) is also not a good choice, as it is easily bent. We prefer welded 1/2 inch wire, painted flat black. Welded wire is exceptionally strong and rigid, preventing the most determined predator from gaining entry.

Should flights have solid roofs?
Yes, yes, yes!! We cover our flights with a clear, corrugated plastic roofing material. This material allows lots of light but prevents birds of prey from terrorizing your doves during the day and from cats, possums, etc. at night. It also prevents wild bird droppings from contaminating the flight.

What direction should a dove aviary face?
The aviary should face south or southeast. ^back to top


How do I sex Doves?
Some species of doves are easy to sex, being dimorphic (males are a different color or pattern than females). Vent sexing is not always reliable. Some species are so alike that surgical or DNA sexing is the answer. Male doves are usually larger, brighter, and bolder than hens.

Why are some species best kept one pair per aviary?
Aggressive species need to be kept to one pair per aviary. Aggressive doves can injure and kill weaker species.

How old do doves have to be before breeding/pairing takes place?
Sexual maturity occurs from 6 to 8 months in most species.

Do doves mate for life?
Like domestic pigeons, doves mate or bond for life, until one of the partners dies. Then the survivor will seek another mate.

How do I keep water fresh?
Change the water often. One or two drops of bleach in a gallon of water will keep water free of algae. Keep water fountains away from perches. Covered water fountains are best in keeping droppings out of the water. ^back to top


How many eggs do doves lay?
Most doves lay two eggs; some species only lay one. Wild doves are notorious for infertile eggs.

Why do foreign doves abandon their eggs or young?
Abandoning eggs may be due to biting pests (lice, mites), noises that frighten brooding birds, or overcrowding and fighting. Frightened doves will abandon young, or if the nest is disturbed in any way, parents may refuse to care for the young.

How can I save abandoned foreign dove babies?
Hand-feeding formulas are available from pet shops, feed stores, etc. Small feeding syringes are available from veterinarians. Young doves should be placed in a box with a light bulb for heat.

Why are some of the young doves ”Scalped” or killed by other doves?
Young doves that are scalped or killed wander into the territory of another dove. Shrubbery provides hiding places for young doves from more aggressive adults. ^back to top


What are some of the most common signs that a dove is ill?
Appearing fluffed up or droopy, having watery green droppings are some common signs of illness. Upon seeing a dove that looks and acts sick, isolate it and put it under a heat source (40 watt bulb). Heat is vital for a sick dove.
If it is not eating, feed it hand-feeding formula (Exact Pretty Bird, etc.), and take it to an avian veterinarian.

What are common dove diseases?
Doves are generally seldom sick. The Salmonella genus has thousands of different species of bacteria that can affect doves. Trichomiasis is a protozoan infection that causes cheese-like growth in the mouth (canker). Coccidiosis is an intestinal disease. “Going light” is not a disease but a symptom of many diseases and treatments.

What causes a seemingly healthy dove to suddenly die?
Unless you have the bird posted, it’s anyone’s guess. Sudden heart failure, becoming frightened and hitting the wall could be some possible reasons.

What do I do for an egg-bound hen?
An egg-bound hen can be placed under a heat source. Drop a few warm (not hot) drops of mineral oil on its cloaca. Do not attempt to manipulate the egg out. Leave the hen alone!

How do I know if my doves have worms?
Worm-infested doves show anemia, rapid emaciation and listlessness. Death due to severe worm infestation is not uncommon. Have the droppings analyzed by a lab. An avian veterinarian can prescribe proper medication.

Can catching doves injure them?
Yes, Be careful netting doves; many doves are severely injured or killed by the ring or handle of the net, or die of stress.

How do I locate an avian veterinarian?
Avian veterinarians are usually listed in bird magazines. Also call and ask your local bird club for recommendations. Locate a vet before you really need one!

How do I get rid of lice?
Lice are parasites that can make birds very uncomfortable. Controlling lice is simple; dust nests and aviary with poultry lice powder.

What other pests can affect doves?
Doves can be infected with lice, mites, and other biting blood-sucking bugs. Wild birds are the main source of contamination. Newly introduced doves should always be checked for parasites. Sterilizing nests, using poultry lice powder and spraying the aviary with approved avian sprays will keep parasites at bay.

How do I get rid of mice/rats in the aviary?
Mice and rats are difficult to eradicate. Preventing these pests from gaining entrance into the aviary is crucial. Small wire netting should be buried a minimum of 18 inches below the ground level. Places where mice and rats hide should be eliminated. Leaving lots of uneaten seed encourages these pests. Prevention is important. Once pests gain entrance, traps or poisons can be used. Follow manufacturers’ directions, especially with poison.

Can I spray (insecticide) in the aviary?
Check with your avian veterinarian and the manufacturer before spraying chemicals around doves. ^back to top

Dove Species

What are turtle doves?
Turtle doves belong to a large group of doves so designated by a ring or collar around the neck. Most turtle doves belong to the family Streptopelia (not all). The common domestic ringnecked or Barbary dove belongs to the turtle dove family.

What are ground doves?
Species included under the ground dove heading are by nature terrestrial, in that, they spend most of each day running about on the ground. This is not a scientific grouping. Ground doves are fascinating to watch on the aviary floor.

What are quail doves?
There is no scientific classification, quail doves are doves that are plump, short-tailed and usually long-legged. Quail doves, like ground doves, spend most of their time on the ground. These quail-like characteristics give these doves their name.

What are cuckoo doves?
Cuckoo doves are very long and colorful. They are easily identified by their long tails and their rich plumage which is often barred.

What is the smallest dove?
The pygmy ground dove (Columbina minuta) is the smallest. This diminutive dove is greyish brown, with upper parts that are gray with steel-blue marks. The tail is short and rounded. The hen is plain gray-olive, with whitish under parts. This tiny dove is fairly common in Mexico and South America.

What is the largest dove?
Victoria crowned pigeons (Goura vistoria) are the giants of the dove world. Distinguished by a large, striking crest, this is an absolutely imposing bird! Over 2 1/2 feet long, it is the size of a hen turkey. It is bluish gray, with a broad grayish-white apical band, and a black band that runs from the lores to the postocular region. Wing coverts are a dark chestnut, with bright red eyes. This elegant pigeon inhabits northwest New Guinea and the Wester Islands.

What is a mule dove?
A mule dove is the offspring of parents from different species. These doves are sterile (mules).

What are fruit doves?
Fruit doves belong to a special group (Treroninae), unlike seedeating doves (Columbidae). All live on trees and feed on soft fruits and berries. Fruit doves are strikingly beautiful and as colorful as their nearest relatives - the parrots. Fruit doves are found in tropical areas of the Old World. ^back to top

Keeping Doves

Why are doves banded?
Banding tells the year the dove was hatched. Bands are excellent for record keeping.

Why do I need a permit or licence to keep some species of doves?
Federal law requires that any native North American doves cannot be legally kept for whatever reason without securing a permit from the Fish and Game Department. (Residents of other areas of the world should check with the government for specific regulations.)

Why are my doves so wild?
Foreign doves are preyed upon by people in most countries including the United States. Many foreign doves are one or two generations removed from the wild. They have an instinctive fear of humans.

Can I exhibit my foreign doves at bird shows?
You can, but foreign doves would be so stressed that they would literally take months or years to recover from such an ordeal before breeding again. You also risk bringing home diseases.

Should I bathe my doves?
Doves bathe naturally in the rain or enjoy a fine mist of water from a hose. Most doves, unlike pigeons, will not bathe in a water-filled container. Some ground-dove species enjoy dust baths.

Are there clubs or organizations for doves?
The American Dove Association caters to domestic ringneck dove and diamond dove breeders and fanciers. Foreign (exotic) doves are also gaining popularity and are a focus of this organization. The American Dove Association provides six DoveLine newsletters a year, a membership and breeders directory which lists species and colors kept by members, provides networking of members around the world, and sponsors a National Young Bird Show each year.
The Canadian Dove Association’s membership is also open to United States dove fanciers. It caters to mostly foreign doves, as well as domestics.

There are also local and regional dove clubs around the world.

Can I let my doves have free flight?
No. Foreign doves will not stick around if released. Most species have no instinct to return to their aviary, regardless if they were born and raised there. They are not homing pigeons!

Do doves sing?
Several species come close to singing. Zebra doves are very much musical, black-winged ground doves chirp, and Peruvian ground doves croak. Surely there are other species that have unique cooing sounds.

Why are some dove species so active?
Some species are just more hyper. Bleeding hearts are always on the move.

What country has no native dove species?
All countries and continents have dove species except the Antarctic.

Why should I keep foreign doves?
For the sheer joy of it! ^back to top

© Copyright 2010 American Dove Association, Inc.