Doves are more than symbols of love, peace, and hope—they are beautiful birds, too, that usually comes in an all-white coloration. They are not usual pet birds, in fact, only 3% of bird owners keep doves. However, experts believe that these birds are underrated in the pet industry—they are docile, easy-going, and friendly, which are some characteristics that make one a great household pet. If you are interested in keeping a Dove at home, make sure to read further to know more about this majestic bird species.
Doves belong to the Columbidae family, and are closely related to pigeons found in the same classification. Oftentimes, people interchange dove and pigeons, but one way to distinguish them separately is that the former is smaller than the latter.
There are a number of Dove species present worldwide—Victoria Crowned Pigeon, Luzon Bleeding-Heart, Rose-crowned Fruit Dove, and Polynesian Ground-Dove being the most famous species. In the wild, Doves can be sighted in a variety of habitats, ranging from tropical forests to arid areas. They can also be found in woodlands, savannas, swamps, islands, atolls, and mountains. Doves also inhabit urban areas such as gardens, farms, cities, and parks. They are found all over the world except the Antarctic region.
Characteristics of a Dove
Average size: 7.5 to 12 in from head to tail
Average life span: More than 15 years
Doves have stout bodies, possessing short beaks and short legs. All species possess similar body shape, what only varies is their plumage coloration. Some Doves come in a solid colors, while a few have various colors and patterns. The coloration also varies a lot in brightness. For instance, the African-collared Dove comes in a solid tan color, while the Pink-headed Fruit Dove possesses a vivid pink head and neck, green body, and a white collar.
These birds love to make a cooing sound that’s not too harsh nor silent. Doves are popular indicators of peace because of their disposition. They are generally calm, which makes it a perfect pet bird for someone who cannot accommodate the everyday needs of a parrot (hours of on-on-one social interaction). They are also smart birds, with the Diamond Dove and Ring-neck Dove topping the list.
Caring for a Dove
Doves do well alone, with a pair, and even in a flock. Keep your pet bird in a spacious enclosure that has large amount of space for them to play, stretch and flap their wings, and climb. A cage that measures at least 18 x 22 x 18 inches (46 x 56 x 46 cm). If you are housing multiple Doves, better provide a larger enclosure. Avoid handling your Dove for 3 to 4 days after bringing them home. This gives them ample time to adjust to
Perches are essential to keep your bird’s feet and legs strong and healthy. Provide at least 2 perches of different sizes, materials, and thickness so your pet can enjoy a variety of options. Make sure to place them at different heights—avoid placing them over food and water dishes because unnecessary droppings can create a mess inside the enclosure. A substrate is also critical—replace linings regularly or as often as required.
Playing with a Dove is a walk in a park—provide them hay balls for playtime and foraging. Offer a water dish filled with warm water for your bird to bathe in. Another alternative is to spice up your bonding time with your bird by providing it with a mist shower. Just fill a clean spray bottle with clean water and spray it to your pet bird.
Like all pet birds, Doves enjoy feeding on specialized pellets, fresh fruits and vegetables, fortified seeds, and occasional treats. 15-25% of their diet should make up of pellets, while 50-60% should be bird seed-based diet. Fill your dove’s water dish with three-quarters full of this mixture and replace any untouched food daily. Feed your pet with dark leafy greens every other day, and provide fruits such as melon, kiwi, and berries every week for variety. A honey stick or millet spray can be offered once a month as a treat.
Supervise closely when introducing your pet to a child. Make sure to watch out for signs of distress or illnesses like decrease in appetite, activity, sneezing, and unwanted discharge from mouth or nose. If any of these occur, consult an avian veterinarian immediately.