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The Natural History and Captive Care of the Superb Fruit Dove

Superb Friut Dove“Superb” indeed!  I was captivated by fruit doves early in my career.  The Bronx Zoo’s director at the time was a confirmed “bird man”, and consequently I was surrounded by an amazing collection.  But even among a dozen brilliantly-colored relatives, the Superb Fruit Dove, Ptilinopus supurbus, stood out.  Its intensely green, orange and purple plumage rivals that of any parrot…and while no dove will talk to you, neither will their quiet, pleasant calls jangle your nerves!

Natural History

Over 100 species of fruit doves and pigeons have been described, approximately 60 of which are classified within the Superb Fruit Dove’s genus.

Superb Fruit Doves are found from the Philippines south through Sulawesi and the Celebes to New Guinea and the eastern coast of Australia.  Their preferred habitats include rainforest edges and clearings, mangrove swamps and wooded riversides.

Superb Fruit Doves are birds of the treetops, feeding there and descending to the ground only to drink. Surprisingly, their flamboyant colors provide excellent camouflage against the canopy’s shadows and sun-streaked leaves. Seeds that are consumed along with fruit pass through the digestive system intact, rendering them as important seed-dispersers for a wide variety of trees.

Populations appear stable over-all, but, being birds of heavily-forested habitats, they and related species are threatened by logging and agricultural expansion.  Several Australian populations are in decline.

Captive Care

Despite their gorgeous plumage and relative hardiness, only 20-25 fruit dove species are regularly kept in private collections.  Many breed readily, but they are not suited for cage life and are best kept in aviaries or bird rooms.

If you are interested in keeping doves but lack the space for an aviary, please see these articles on Diamond Doves and Zebra Doves, both of which adapt well to large cages.


A pair of Superb Fruit Doves will require an aviary measuring at least 6 x 4 x 6 feet, but double that is preferable; despite being a mere 9 inches long, they do not take well to crowding.  Flight space and plenty of above-ground perches and shelves are essential.  Having evolved in forested habitats, Superb Fruit Doves will be stressed in open enclosures…abundant live plants and at least one solid (non-screened) side to the aviary will help them to settle in.

Indoor housing is required during autumn and winter in temperate climates, as these tropical birds cannot tolerate cold weather.

Superb Fruit Doves get along well with smaller seed-eating doves, finches, Painted Quails and non-aggressive softbills.


Those experienced with Ring-Necked Doves and similar species may be surprised at the Superb Fruit Dove’s dietary needs…i.e. the fact that seed can be dispensed with. An extremely varied diet is essential to their good health…trying to maintain any fruit dove on a diet limited to 4-5 items is a recipe for disaster.

The majority of the diet should consist (as you might guess!) of fruit.  Apples, peaches, pears, melons, berries of all kinds, papaya, mango, kiwi, currants, figs, dates and others, along with small amounts of cooked yams and carrots, should be provided daily.  Softbill pellets and a bit of soaked dog kibble will round-out the salad.

To assure that a balanced diet is consumed, food must be cut to perfect “swallowing size”…fruit doves cannot break food into manageable bits, and will discard pieces that are too large.


Superb Fruit DoveSuperb Fruit Doves breed surprisingly well, with the main problem being egg rolling from the flimsy stick nests they construct.  Baskets should be hung about the upper reaches of the aviary for a breeding pair; if accepted as nest sites, egg incubation will be much more successful.

Both parents incubate the single egg for 14-16 days.  The chick fledges quickly – usually by day 7 – at which point it may be quite vulnerable to falls, inclement weather and other threats.  However, the parents, if undisturbed, will stay close by and continue to feed it, so avoid intervening.

Uncommon but Worthwhile Relatives

Other truly gorgeous pigeons and doves are also being bred by private aviculturists…please see this article for notes on Bleeding Heart, Nicobar and Victoria Crowned Pigeons.



Further Reading

Superb Fruit Dove Videos

Natural History (Australian population)

Husbandry information on a variety of fruit dove species



Superb Fruit Dove image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Kosol Nou

Female Superb Fruit Dove image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Tobias Spaltenberger


  1. avatar

    Thank you your excellent article regarding the superb fruit dove.
    My wife and I are wanting to buy a pair for breeding. Can you help us or do you know someone we can contact ?
    Kind regards

  2. avatar

    Hello Geoff,

    Thanks for the kind words…unfortunately I do not know of any breeders in your area; perhaps one of the larger Australian bird clubs or bird sites may be of use.

    Good luck and please let me know how all goes, Frank

  3. avatar

    Hi Frank! Do doves in general tend to flock? How about fruit doves, and if someone were to keep one in captivity, does it make a lot of difference whether they are alone, with another (or a group) of fruit doves , or another dove/compatible species?

  4. avatar

    Hello Margaret,

    I apologize for the delay..missed your post due to a glitch.

    Mourning doves flock outside of the breeding season, but fruit doves and other tropical species tend not to. They do well in pairs, but can be kept alone. best, Frank

About Frank Indiviglio

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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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