Learning To Care For A Dove

White dove

It is no wonder that the dove is the universal symbol of love and peace. They have the most tranquil and gentle spirit. Their cooing vocalizations are pleasantly laid back and mellow. There is simply nothing about this bird not to love.

The Womachs have left their dove in my care while they are away. Ari, so named by the fans on the Birdtricks facebook page, is the easiest bird I have ever cared for – it almost seems too easy. To be sure that I give Ari the best possible care, I have been reading about them online and contacting dove owners about their needs.

Ari is a white mutation of the ringneck dove species which belong to the Columbiformes family. (The now extinct dodo bird is a former member of this family.) Many things about the dove seems in contrast to the parrot – they dont scream, they don’t bite. Doves have a sweet disposition and are almost naturally tame. They are smart, hardy, sociable and undemanding.

My only struggle is in trying to feed Ari properly. There is precious little information out there regarding the dove diet because there has been so little research done on the subject. I am still on the lookout for information regarding their exact dietary requirements so I can create just the right diet for this bird. Even in the world of dove enthusiasts, there is debate and uncertainty.

White dove

As we have learned in the parrot world, just because a bird has “survived” on a certain diet, it doesn’t make it an acceptible one. We now know, through trial and error, what the differeing basic dietary requirements are for several parrot species. They are not all the same. I don’t expect to find that the dove has the same requirements as a parrot.

I do know that the current recommended diet is failing the dove. When you look up their life expectancy it says they can live to 25 years of age, but generally only live for 10-15 years. What does that tell you?

When you research their diet online, the common word is seed. Actually, the ONLY word is seed. Just about everywhere says that their diet consists of a seed mix for canaries and finches, or a blend for wild birds. Seed, seed, seed. Oh, and water. It sounds very much like the presumed diet for parrots not so very long ago.

Anyone who knows me knows that this is unacceptible to my way of thinking. It is inconceivable that any bird exist, let alone thrive,  on a single type of food, never mind one so one-dimensional. I had to hunt far and wide to find the people who were feeding the diet that made sense to me. As I suspected, well, insisted, fresh foods ARE part of the dove diet. The question remains, though, how much of which foods? Purina has a pellet formulated for doves, but I wonder where THEIR nutritional info came from?

For now, Ari receives a fresh food diet similar to that which the parrots are eating. I found a seed mix that is made for doves which will do until I find something I prefer. I have not yet ordered the pellets because of debate on the subject of their quality and worth in the diet. And I include a blend of grit types that also provides some mineral supplementation.

As I discover new things, I will pass on any worthwhile information I encounter about these wonderful birds. They are a bit of a mystery.

White dove

Ari is an active bird who uses every square inch of his cage. He plays with toys and shows great interest in the other birds in the room. He obviously enjoys his showers. I think I’m in love.

Doves might be the perfect choice for someone wanting a bird who doesn’t want some of the typical parrot attributes like unpredictability and noisiness. Doves are cuddly and soft and social.

They are nearly perfect as avian companions…so much so that I am suspicious. Being a parrot owner, I keep waiting for the “true” nature of this bird to assert itself, but I am assured by dove owners that this is it. Having cockatoos, I guess I have different expectations about the behavior of white birds!

Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987. 


Danielle Bedard

I have a ringneck dove that was hatched in 1989, he is 33 years old. He has only eaten seed but the one thing he does get is a lot of sunshine! I switched him to the seed that you use for Blueberry and he seems to really like that. With the seed that’s made for doves he would pick through it and only eat the smaller seeds.

Danielle Bedard
Antonella Brage de la Garza

Hi, can you please make an update on doves? I have a Diamond dove and want to learn more about what food to give him and what toys. I would also like to know if you have a suggestion on treat?

Antonella Brage de la Garza
Nicole Ward Naccari

I would love to hear of any updates you have had on dove diet. We have 5 doves right now. We have switched them to an all seed diet to barely any seed. We now feed them the same fresh chop as we do our parrots. I try to add eggs once or twice a week, and I even gave them some salmon the other day that they devoured… just trying out different things for them to see. We use the seasonal feeding system from BirdTricks, and the doves absolutely and instantly loved the fresh chop. We can’t even feed them enough. They eat more of it then the parrots and just won’t stop. We were at first doing chop in the morning and seed at night, but have just done started doing chop in the morning, a little fruit for snack, and then we just switched yesterday to Rowdybush mini pellets for dinner. We have two cages with a bonded pair of doves with two babies which ate the pellets right up without hesitation. They had no problems with chewing them at all, and they seemed to love them. The other cage has a single dove that we are going to add one of the babies with him in the next month. He ate the pellets okay, and I think he will learn to enjoy them. So far, they seem like they are active and happy and social even more with this diet. Plus, the cage and the area around the cage is so much cleaner. The bird droppings also look a whole lot healthier in color.

Nicole Ward Naccari

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