Talpacoti Dove

Columba talpacoti

by Josie Pyle
Softbill, Dove and Quail Branch

Other Names: Ruddy Ground Dove

Distribution and Habitat: a native of Central and South America, the Talpacoti Dove exploits a variety of habitats including grasslands, swamps and settled areas. It prefers low-lying areas and forages for the seeds of grasses and weeds in open ground and uses small shrubs for roosting and nesting.

Size: 18 to 20cm in length with an adult weight of 60 to 80 grams.

Description: Certainly not vivid in colour, the Talpacoti Dove exhibits a blend of pastel grey and pink. The sexes are dimorphic. In the cock, the forehead and crown are dull grey with pink to almost purple from the throat down the underparts and on the wings, which also display small black spots. The legs and feet are pale pink to purple, the bill brown and the iris reddish-brown. In the hen the pink areas are replaced by brown to grey-brown and the forehead and crown are pale grey, The iris is also paler.

Juveniles: Hatchlings are covered in cream down. Juveniles resemble pale versions of the adults with scaling through the underparts. The scaling is buff in young hens and more rufous in young cocks.

Housing: A non-aggressive bird, the Talpacoti Dove may be kept in a mixed collection of small parrots such as neophemas, finches, softbills and quail. They may also be kept with larger pigeons or doves but may be antagonistic to dove species of their own size. My pair has only showed aggression towards other birds (Turquoise Parrots) as their chick was about to fledge, but this was not sustained or serious. The Talpacoti Dove prefers larger planted aviaries, in which they may become quite quiet and will show typical ground foraging behaviour. However they will tolerate and may even breed in an open parrot aviary.

Feeding: A basic Finch Mix provides the staple diet for the Talpacoti Dove but this should be supplemented with greenfeed and seeding grasses. Live food may be taken but is not essential.

Breeding: The Talpacoti Dove has been known to breed all year around, given the right circumstances and five or even more clutches per year are not uncommon. In the wild a cup shape nest of fine twigs is constructed in small shrubs. In captivity the birds will utilise artificial structures such as a canary cup nest, but nesting material such as grass and fine twigs should be provided. Some pairs may tolerate nest inspection but some will desert the nest if disturbed, especially in the first week. Two white eggs are laid and incubation occurs for 11 to 14 days. Incubation and brooding duties are shared by both sexes. Infertility has been noted as a problem in this species but may be overcome by swapping pairs around. The chicks fledge after only 10 to 14 days and the parents may have started nesting again even before this happens. Fledglings tend to spend most of their time on the aviary floor or low branches. Although only half the size of their parents at fledging, the young grow rapidly and can rapidly become very similar to their parents, so leg rings on the adults is a prudent step. The young are independent at 4 weeks after fledging and may be removed to a separate aviary. Occasionally cocks may become aggressive to older chicks, especially if the parents are nesting again.

Status: The Talpacoti is secure in aviculture, although not common. It is a worthwhile addition to a planted finch or small parrot aviary and is relatively easy to keep. It is the only South American dove species to be kept in Australia, which should give it some status and an certainly creates an obligation on aviculturists to maintain a viable breeding population.

Reference and further reading:

Brown, Dr. D., A Guide to… Pigeons, Doves and Quail, Australian Birdkeeper, NSW, 1995.