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Feature Articles

Diamond Doves

Pair with hen on right. Notice eye ring on male.
Pair with hen on right. Notice eye ring on male.

Diamond Doves, as our title indicates, come from Australia and are found in aviculture worldwide.They are a popular aviary bird here in New Zealand and I have had many non birdkeepers amazed that doves can be so small. They are only one of a few species of dove that are available in this size. Cape doves are a similar size and shape with an even longer tail and Zebra doves and Cinnamon doves are again a small species but with shorter tails and much rounder in body shape. Diamond doves are found in aviaries all over N.Z. from Northland to Southland.

Pair of Silver Mutation
Pair of Silver Mutation

As we see on this page there are two mutation available in N.Z. One is termed Silver and the other Cream. The silver is more common with reasonable numbers available whereas the cream mutation is in low numbers. I don't know too much about possible outcomes from matings for these colour mutations but it would be good to have some insight into this. Silver hens do not show as much brown on their body as normals.

As seen below the nest is often built in tea tree in the aviary and is a very small open cup shape that is quite flimsy. Usually a few twigs and bits of grass are used, although many will use canary nest pans to breed them. The disadvantage I see with letting them build there own nests is that some are that poor, that eggs can be dislodged if a bird panics and is frightened off the nest. Only two white eggs each clutch are laid and the eggs take 13 days to hatch. Chicks are covered lightly with some yellow down and this is soon replaced with feather emerging. In only 10 days they are fully feathered and ready to leave the nest. Young ones are a grey - brown colour and feathers show a check pattern which disappears as birds mature, and attain adult plumage. While chicks are being raised check on them each evening if possible, especially if pairs are kept breeding into the cooler months of the year such as April and May. Sometimes young birds will leave the nest and stay down on the floor of the aviary for a number of days and if the nights are cool they can get chilled, as parent birds are not sitting on them and you will find them dead from the cold the next morning. This will be more important if only one egg hatches a just a single chick is raised. I have read that each nest is supposed to have a cock and hen but I have never observed this close enough myself to confirm whether or not this is indeed the case.

Cream Mutation
Cream Mutation

They can be a little difficult to the novice birdkeeper at first to determine sex but after a few years of keeping and breeding them and the opportunity of looking at a few birds, sexing them becomes easy. As we see in the photos, the cockbird is an all over steel grey colour with touches of brown on the wings and tail and a much lighter silvery grey on the underbelly. The hen on the other hand has a mousy brown overlay on her back wings and extends up the neck and top of the head.

Young in nest
Young in nest

Mature birds then are noticeably different. The other distinguishing feature is the red eye ring. The cockbird has a much broader and larger eye ring than the hen. The hen is duller and is very pale. The older a cockbird gets the stronger the colouring of its eye ring. As you see in the photo mature birds then look quite different. Of course come breeding time, the cockbird distinguishes himself further by behaving in a typical pigeon fashion with cooing, bobbing and bowing with tail flared, as it performs to its mate.

Older young one.
Older young one.

They prefer millet as far as dry seed is concerned. White french millet, Japanese millet, plain and red pannicum. Some canary seed will also be taken and they have a real fondness for soaked seed. A good budgie mix would probably suit them well. Beside dry seed they will eat a variety of green food and also like a little kibbled or wheatmeal bread, sponge and madeira cake. They will also eat softfood such as canary rearing food with a hard boiled egg added and this would help when they have young in the nest. In saying that, they will rear their young on dry seed alone, if that is all that's available. I have found them to eat far more seed than do the finches I keep them with, so make sure the seed containers are checked regularly if you have a mixed collection of birds.

Fledgling in juvenile colours
Fledgling in juvenile colours

Over the years I have kept them mainly as single pairs with reasonable breeding success and still think this is the best option for their housing however over the past 2 - 3 seasons I had opportunity to let several pair build up in the one aviary and have observed the following:

At the start of the nesting pairs will bicker and fight among themselves, not just males but hens will do their best to sort out the dominant bird. This has an impact on the settling down of pairs to actually incubate the eggs and go on to rear young. Their have been a number of nests with eggs deserted and even two hens trying to sit on the one nest at times. They do settle down and produce young but I am sure that if each pair had been housed in a separate aviary that many more young would have been produced.

Although there was a lot of squabbling and fighting among birds, there were no injuries or deaths that could be attributed to it. So although it is not ideal it could still be done. I think if one had a very large aviary ( mine was 3.9 x 1.5m x 2m high) say twice or three times this size, then pairs could have their own space and would settle down quicker and produce more young. And of course I am talking of having them in with other birds in a mixed collection. No doubt some will have had different experiences with them and may have come to different conclusions.

As far as aviary size for a single pair, they would adapt to any size, although I haven't tried it myself I'm sure they would breed in even a small flight cage and are perfectly safe housed with even small waxbills like Orange breasts or Cordon Blues or Finches like the Gouldian.

These are not demanding little birds. They are hardy being kept and bred in some pretty cold places in New Zealand and will blend in with most other species of birds. They breed in small aviaries or large and have no special dietary requirements, so if you haven't kept doves and want to try them why not give the Diamond Dove a go ?

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