Heart of America Game
Breeders' Association

Diamond Doves

By Terry Smith, from the Heartland News, September 1998.

Diamond Doves (Geopelia cuneata) are one of the most popular aviary or pet birds due to their simple requirements, the ease and prolificness in breeding, and their compatibility with finches, softbills, and other doves and pigeons when housed in a large aviary. It must be noted that the doves will fight when housed with closely related doves such as Peaceful Doves and Bar-shouldered Doves. The species, native to the grasslands of the arid interior of Australia, lives in pairs or in flocks. Because of variable food supplies and a need for fresh water, the birds are nomadic. Diamond Doves roost and nest in trees and bushes, but they spend time on the ground feeding on the small seeds of herbaceous plants and grasses or sunning themselves. In warmer climates, they will need protection from the dampness and low winter temperatures.

Diamond Doves, also called Little Doves, are just that. Even with the long tail, a mature Diamond Dove measures 7 1/2 inches in length and will weigh approximately 1 1/2 ounces. The head, neck and breast are light blue-gray. The underparts are creamy white; the upper parts, the tail and the wings are brownish gray. The bird derives its name from the small black edged spots or diamond shaped markings found on the wings. The eyes are red to reddish orange and are surrounded by a bright red orbital ring, the bill is dark gray-brown and the feet and legs are pink. It is difficult to tell the difference between the male and the female so keep these factors in mind when sexing birds: cocks are usually larger with a broader, more masculine-looking head, the orbital ring of a male is brighter and larger, the wing spots will be more defined and larger than those of a hen of the same age, the mantle and throat of the hen will have a brownish tone. Young males resemble hens.

In captivity, Diamond Doves may be kept in pairs in a small pen or they may be colony raised if the aviary is large with some plantings and an open ground area for feeding and socialization. Such a breeding facility should also have some sort of shelter and privacy for breeding and nesting, such as some dense foliage near a back wall. Provide them with several nesting platforms - mesh, wood, or a small basket securely attached to the back wall of the sheltered area, and nesting material, twigs, moss, grass, and tobacco leaf veins to help rid the nest of lice.

Since they are seed eaters, they can be fed small seed mixes suitable for finches, budgerigars and canaries. If the birds are housed in a pen with an open ground area, plant some seed-producing grasses including chickweed. The birds can also be fed poultry starter crumbles, mealworms and water or milk-soaked stale bread. They should also be provided with plenty of fresh water, cuttlefish bone, and fine grit.

Even thought Diamond Doves are relatively hardy little birds, they are affected with the same diseases and disorders affecting other doves and pigeons. When a bird is ill, proper treatment of the birds can only be made after a veterinarian performs a diagnosis of fresh fecal material. Diamond Doves are bothered by a variety of worms, protozoa disorders such as canker and coccidiosis, bacterial infections including enteritis and respiratory diseases, and fungal infections resulting from spoiled feed, overusing antibiotics, or "green mold" growing on the air sacs of lung surfaces of birds housed in damp, enclosed areas where poor hygiene is practiced.

The mating display of Diamond Doves includes a head-down, tail-up bow, which occurs most often while the birds are on the ground. The male then lowers his head and chest to the ground and the tail and wings are fanned out and spread vertically. This behavior is repeated every few steps as the male follows the hen. The clutch consists of two white eggs, which are incubated by both sexes. Incubation is 13 days. Avoid checking the nest for the first week. The squabs are quite small and covered with yellow down. At first they exist on "pigeon milk" supplied by the parents, but after a few days, they can eat regurgitated seeds. They grow quickly and fledgling, a young birds that has just grown feathers necessary for flight, occurs at 13 to 16 days. When the young are independent, they should be removed from the nest. Parent birds often will attack their young when they want to start another brood.

There are approximately 27 mutations of Diamond Doves. The Silver mutation, a simple recessive in inheritance, originated in Australia and is well established. The normal body color is replaced with a light silver gray, but other colors and markings are unchanged. Fawn Diamond Doves are paler in color then the silvers. The overall body color is pale fawn and the wings are a pale creamy gray. Some birds are almost white in color. A darker version of the fawn has primary flight feathers that are russet brown and the back has fawn patches. Birds with this coloration are sometimes referred to as Cinnamon Diamond Doves. Red Diamond Doves are lighter in color than the normal Diamond Dove, with a red-brown coloring of the wing and back feathers. The White-bodied or Pied Diamond Dove, which breeds true to type, is off-white in color with normal dark gray wings. Other Diamond Dove mutations include the White or Albino, Cream, Blue, Yellow, White-rumped, White-tailed, Fallow and Barred.

Diamond Doves, which are easily available and affordable, are suitable for the beginner who wants to start breeding doves.

diamond dove, photo by Dan Cowell

September 1998 The Heartland News, Terry Smith