The Peaceful Dove by Dan HASSELL

A native Australian Dove, the Peaceful Dove (Geopelia placida) is a slightly larger bird than it’s better known cousin, the Diamond Dove (Geopelia cuneata). The name ‘Peaceful’ is unfortunate, as this species can be rather argumentative with others of its species or with other aviary occupants. The Peaceful Dove’s range is over most of mainland Australia except for some of the more arid areas, as it tends to inhabit vegetated areas close to a supply of drinking water. A Society member recently reported to me, this species is quite common in the Gawler area and I know of another aviculturist who has regularly seen it between Port Augusta and Whyalla.

Peaceful Doves are between 8 and 9 inches in length (200 to 230 mm) and should be of a slender build. They are predominately a grey-brown bird on the back and wings and grey-pink on the underside, with bars of black across the wings and back. Their main feature is probably their ’zebra’ stripes from the chin to the upper breast which also extends around to the back of the neck. The sexes are monomorphic, and they can be difficult to sex. Males tend to have more iridescent blue around the eye-ring extending toward the beak, however young males can be mistaken for mature females. During the breeding season, the colour of the skin around the eye may become a more intense blue. Some say males are larger, and the black of the zebra stripes are darker and better defined in males, but I cannot pick these features and believe it is more of an individual trait. Juveniles, in particular, are poorly marked around the throat and neck area. The most reliable way to sex these birds (without the cost of DNA or surgical sexing) is by observation. Place different coloured leg rings on the birds to identify them and watch their behaviour. Cocks ‘coo’ loudly, particularly after sunrise, and hens don’t. When courting, cocks will lift their tails and will bow and bob in front of the hens, attempting to win their affection.

There is a fawn (sometimes called cinnamon) mutation of this species readily available.

Peaceful Doves can be housed in almost any type of aviary, but probably do best in a large, planted, open-flighted finch type aviary. More than one pair can be kept if the space is available, and after some initial bickering to establish the pecking order, they will generally settle down. My two pairs are housed in an aviary 5 metres x 2.2 metres x 2.1 metres high, with finches and a pair of Bleeding Heart Pigeons, all co-existing peacefully together.

In it’s natural habitat the Peaceful Dove is a ground feeder, taking mainly the seeds from native trees and grasses. It has adapted well to taking seeds from introduced grasses including agricultural crops. In aviculture they will eat small seeds, such as finch or budgie mix, and soaked or sprouted seed. Some greenfood may be taken although it is not essential. Livefood is not often taken and it is probably a waste of time giving it.

This dove is considered to be generally compatible with other species of birds, including finches, quail, softbills and the more docile parrots. It can also be housed with some other species of pigeons or doves, however aggression should be watched as some individuals can be pugnacious toward other birds. Care should be taken not to house this species with the Diamond Dove, as hybridization may occur.

This species may breed at any time of the year that food is available, but the main breeding season is from spring through to autumn. Breeding begins with the cockbird displaying to the hen, often on the ground, when he elevates his tail to nearly vertical while bobbing and cooing in an arc in front of the hen. A flimsy nest is constructed of short lengths of thin sticks or course grass, and if wire platforms are not provided, they will be placed in the fork of a bush or among branches of needlebrush. Because of their flimsy nature, nests often move and the eggs will fall through, therefore it is better avicultural practice to provide some platforms of birdwire in various positions around the aviary shelter. Hopefully they will pick one. Generally two white coloured eggs are laid, one day apart, and incubation lasts about 14 days. The parents share incubation duties. Care should be taken when moving about in the aviary during that time as some pairs are light sitters and may leave the nest. The young are born covered with down, and grow rapidly. In typical pigeon fashion, the squabs are beak fed with a regurgitated ‘crop-milk’ and, as they grow, the parents regurgitate increasing amounts of solids amongst the milk. Although not fully feathered, the young have a good cover of feathers within about two weeks and they fledge at around 16 to 17 days of age. They are poor flyers at first and may spend much of their first days on the ground. Full feathering is attained by about 4 weeks of age, with adult colour occurring between 2 and 3 months of age. The young should be eating independently about 2 weeks after leaving the nest and they can be removed from the aviary a weeks or so later, or can be left with the parents and they will happily co-exist. Some pairs will raise 2 or 3 successive clutches.

This bird is not kept as commonly kept as the Diamond Dove, or the introduced Masked Dove, but they are still readily available and are not expensive. They are a worthy candidate for any aviculturist looking for an interesting species to add to their mixed collection, and they have a lovely call which can be heard all over the backyard while not being annoying to the neighbours.

References –

BROWN, D., Guide to Pigeons, Doves & Quail, Australian Birdkeeper Publications.

SHEPHARD, M., Aviculture in Australia, Reed Books.