Home | Bird Species Profiles | The Diamond Dove (Geopelia cuneata) in the Wild and Captivity – Part I, Natural History

The Diamond Dove (Geopelia cuneata) in the Wild and Captivity – Part I, Natural History

Diamond DovesLike many bird fanciers, I was long drawn to the quiet beauty and calm demeanors of the various doves, but held back due to the large flight cages required by most, and the relative delicacy of the smaller species.  That is, until I discovered the Diamond Dove.  Barely larger than a canary, this tiny beauty is also quite hardy and long-lived, and is an ideal introduction to the group.

Physical Description
Diamond Doves tip the scales at a mere 1.5 ounces, and measure 7 to 7.5 inches in length. Their pleasing, subtly-colored plumage displays a surprisingly wide range of colors and shades.  The head, breast and neck are clad in blue-gray, while the back is light brown.  The tail is dark gray with black-tipped mid feathers and white-tipped outer feathers.  The brownish gray upper wing is flecked with black-circled white spots, which lend the “diamond” to its name.  The lower wing is chestnut in color and the abdomen is creamy white.  The orange-red eye is encircled by a fire-red ring.

Range and Habitat
The enormous range covers much of northern and central Australia, with flocks moving to the southern and eastern coasts during particularly dry years.  They are usually seen in pairs or small groups, but large flocks form during Australia’s winter.

Diamond Doves favor open habitats within flying distance of water – sparsely wooded areas, grasslands and desert fringes, but sometimes occur in parks and gardens as well.

Grass seeds of various types form the majority of the diet, with ants and other tiny insects being taken on occasion.

Males choose the nest site and court females by cooing with the beak held to the ground while spreading the tail feathers.  They may also feed potential mates, and often puff their feathers and strut before females in the manner of the Rock Dove (our ubiquitous “city pigeon”).  Paired birds exchange greeting calls and mutual light pecks about the head, and both contribute to the construction of the flimsy grass and stick nest.

A clutch consists of 2 eggs, laid 1 day apart.  Both parents incubate the eggs – the female by night and the male by day.  The eggs hatch in 12-15 days, and the young fledge in 12 days to 2 weeks (often longer in captivity).

In common with their relatives, Diamond Doves feed their young with “pigeon milk” – a thick liquid derived from the lining of the crop.  Other than flamingoes, pigeons and doves are the only birds known to utilize such a food.

Diamond Doves are classified within the order Columbiformes and are members of the order’s sole surviving family, Columbidae – the pigeons and doves.  The order also contains the infamous Dodo and the Solitaires, all of which are now extinct.

Approximately 320 species of pigeon-like birds are distributed on all continents except Antarctica.  Two species, the Rock Dove and the Collared Dove, occur within the Arctic Circle.  The genus to which the Diamond Dove belongs contains 4 other species, all of which are small, long-tailed birds of arid, open habitats in Australia and Indonesia.

At nearly 6 pounds in weight and 3 feet in length, New Guinea’s magnificent Victoria Crowned Pigeon, Goura victoria, is the world’s largest.  I have kept and bred these massive blue birds at the Bronx Zoo, and found them to be both calm and very intelligent.  If you have a chance to visit a zoo that houses Victoria Crowned Pigeons, please do – you will not soon forget the experience.  The Common Ground Dove, Columbina passerina, just barely wins out over the Diamond Dove as the smallest.  Measuring 6.7 inches long at weighing in at 1 ounce, it ranges from the southern USA to Brazil.

While a number of pigeons are specialized fruit-eaters, most feed upon seeds and grain.  Seeds are not cracked but rather swallowed whole and ground up with the help of stones and other grit in the muscular gizzard.  Unlike most birds, pigeons and doves drink by immersing their bills in water and sucking.

Next time we’ll take a look at keeping Diamond Doves as pets.

You can read more about the natural history of pigeons and doves at:

Image referenced from Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Golabek_diamentowy.jpg. Author M. Betley, under the GNU Free Documentation License.


  1. avatar

    Hi, I’m looking Hi, could you please ansawer another dove question? My ring necked doves eat mostly seeds from a wild dove food mix. They eat just about everything, but I would like to add more fruit and vegetables. The male will eat from the sprout pot which you mentioned last time, but the female eats only seeds, anything else I can try>? They do not like carrots, apples or orange,thanks.

  2. avatar

    Hello Lynn, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog. Often doves will take dried fruits and vegetables more readily than fresh. Vita Sun Dove Food is a good choice for their basic diet…it contains bits of split pea and wheat, both of which are usually accepted, and a wide variety of seeds and grains. Goldenfeast Australia Blend is loaded with freeze dried fruits – try mixing some in with their seed. Pretty Bird Softbill Select, a pellet comprised of 15 or so fruits and vegetables, is another food worth trying. Try grinding 3-4 pellets over your doves’ seed.

    Yams are a favorite of many bird species, doves included…these are available in freeze dried form as well. Some doves will also take hard-boiled eggs – if possible, grind the egg and shell together and offer a small amount 1-2x weekly, especially if the hen nests. Egg food is a useful alternative, and is well-liked by nearly all birds.

    Please keep me posted.

    Good luck and enjoy, best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  3. avatar

    i have two diamond doves one male one female can i keep them with my canary in an aviary, i have around 25 canarys and six finches.
    d hart

  4. avatar

    Hello David, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog. They usually get along quite well with canaries and other finches, assuming the aviary is large enough for the birds to be able to separate out away from one another. Mated pairs may chase finches from their immediate vicinity, but they rarely pursue them once the finches move off. A large group of canaries is actually better than a pair, as the doves will not be able to concentrate on any 1 individual.

    Introduce them slowly (perhaps a holding cage within or near the aviary at first and watch them closely for awhile – be especially vigilant if the doves begin to court and nest, in case their behavior changes.

    The doves prefer to feed on the ground, so you’ll need to create an area that is protected from canary droppings. Doves are also prone to ground-dwelling parasites, so be sure to maintain a clean substrate.

    Sounds like a nice aviary – Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  5. avatar

    I found this to be exactly what i need. I got 2 from petco and im certain they are male/female. I just recently noticed the mating ( i was hurt for a while) and just today descovered an egg. The bad part is she laid in the food bowl. what should i do? do i move it? carefully. should i use a heat lamp to keep them warm? I was not prepared for this yet. thanks so much for all the info already. oh and should i change or add food. just a fortified dove seed right now?

  6. avatar

    Hello Desiree,

    That’s not uncommon. You would need an incubator and dove-rearing diet if you wished to try on your own…not a simple task. Best to discard the egg if she does no incubate, try providing a nest site; add calcium to the diet if you have not done so…cuttlebone if she will use it, or powdered form. Best, Frank

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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