“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!
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.
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.
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 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.
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