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Pet Doves

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Pet Doves Walker and Walker/Getty Images

Common Name:

Dove, Pigeon.

Scientific Name:

Doves are in the family Columbidae and encompass over 300 separate species. The most commonly recognized dove -- the white dove, as pictured to the right -- is actually the most common of over 40 different color mutations of the Ringneck Dove, or Streptopelia risoria.

Origin:

While Ringneck Doves such as the white Dove shown originally hail from Africa, other Dove species originate from places all over the world. For example, Fruit Doves are endemic to Australia while Mourning Doves are one of the most prolific and widely recognized wild bird species in North America.

Size:

While different species of Doves come in different sizes, as a general rule, most types of doves fall between 8 and 12 inches in length from the beak to the tips of the tailfeathers.

Average Lifespan:

With proper care, captive pet doves can live for as long as 10 to 25 years of age.

Temperament:

Tame, domesticated, handfed Doves are known for their sweet and gentle dispositions. Unlike parrots, softbills such as Doves have a reputation for rarely trying to bite or otherwise put up a fuss with their beaks. Some doves can be a bit more nervous with people than others, but this can often be calmed by utilizing positive socialization and bonding techniques. Because of their largely peaceful nature, pet Doves can be a good choice as a pet for older children who understand the need to be calm and gentle with companion animals.

Colors:

Pet Doves can come in a rainbow of colors and color combinations. As mentioned above, there can even be a wide variety of color mutations to be found within a single Dove species. The most commonly recognized pet dove colors are often white, gray, or a combination of the two with various species-specific markings.

Feeding:

In the wild, most Dove species subsist on a diet comprised mainly of fruits, berries, and seeds. Some species have been known to ingest the occasional insect, but the vast majority of Doves thrive on a vegetarian diet. Pet Doves in captivity seem to do best on a high quality seed mix (often marketed as a diet safe for Doves, Pigeons, or Parakeets) supplemented with millet, commercial pellets formulated for softbills, and a variety of fresh, bird-safe fruits and vegetables.

Exercise:

Like all birds, Doves need plenty of exercise. To maintain your Dove's health and physical condition, it is recommended that you allow it to come out of the cage into a safe, "bird-proofed" area so that it can stretch its legs, wings, and fly around for a bit for a minimum of one hour per day. Be sure that your Dove is always closely supervised during out-of-cage playtime, as these birds can often run into trouble if they encounter common household hazards.

Doves as Pets:

Beautiful, charming, and easy to care for, Doves make excellent pets for those who are interested in owning a pet bird, but don't quite feel ready to take on a more difficult pet such as a parrot species.

Noted for their gentle dispositions and quiet, soothing vocalizations, Doves have been cited as an excellent choice as a pet for both young and older bird lovers. While they do, like any pet bird, require plenty of attention and socialization, Doves seem to be more naturally suited to interacting with humans than some other bird species, and tend to be easier for novice bird owners to tame and bond with. While they don't typically display the comical antics of the hookbill species, Doves have charming personalities and with proper care can offer their owners many years of entertainment, love, and companionship.

If you are interested in adopting a pet dove of your own, try contacting a local Dove breeder to talk about what it's like to share your day to day life with one of these birds. See if you can set up an appointment to meet with them and their pets, and you'll be able to get a better feel for whether or not a keeping a pet dove is compatible with your family and lifestyle.
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