Heart of America Game
Breeders' Association

Senegal Doves

By Terry Smith, from the Heartland News, August 1995.

The Senegal Dove (Streptopelia senegalensis), which is also commonly called the Laughing Dove or the Senegal Palm Turtle Dove, is one of the most popular of foreign doves to raise in captivity due to its beautiful coloration, its readiness to breed, and the ease with which it can be obtained throughout the country at affordable prices. Weighing about 3 1/8 to 4 1/4 ounces and measuring about 4 2/3 inches in length, the Senegal Dove is about two-thirds the size of a Barbary or Ringneck Dove. The head, neck and breast of the Senegal are soft reddish-brown shading to creamy white on the lower abdomen and the under tail coverts. The wing coverts are slate-blue in color with the secondaries being a darker slate gray. The lower back and rump gray and the throat band is black with deep reddish-brown flecks. The eyes are brown with a red orbital ring. The beak is black, and the legs and feet are red to red-brown. Though not as colorful as the male, the Senegal hen is attractive. Her coloring is paler because she does not have as much reddish-brown on the upper body parts. Young birds are dull brown in color where adults are reddish-brown.

The birds are native to northern Africa, Arabia, India, Afghanistan, and Turkey. As a result of being introduced by people, they have become established in Turkey, Israel, Syria, Malta and near Perth, Australia. They are found naturally in arid scrub or thorny bush country near a source of water and have adapted well in areas inhabited by man, hence they are found living in cultivated oases, gardens, villages and towns.

They are ground feeders and much of their natural food consists of seeds and grains such as millet, wheat, and dari. In captivity, the bulk of the bird's diet will consist of wild bird seed high in millet, canary seed or budgerigar mix, but they can also be fed some leafy green vegetables, small amounts of mealworms and dog food.

Senegal Doves do quite well in a planted aviary and will nest in conifers if planted in the aviary. Senegal Doves are known for their desire to nest, and wild caught birds have started nesting within a few hours after being trapped and caged. In the wild, their nests are usually found in trees, bushes, at the base of palm fonds, or on sheltered ledges and nooks of buildings. In captivity, they prefer nest baskets in secluded areas of the aviary and will also nest in flower pots partly filled with mulch. A nesting platform constructed of wire mesh placed under the nest will prevent accidental loss of eggs or the newly hatched young. The hen lays two white eggs which take 12 to 14 days to hatch. Both the male and female take turns incubating the eggs. Approximately twelve days after hatching, the young become independent, they must be seperated from their parents as the parents will become aggressive towards them when its time to nest again. Senegal Doves have been known to raise six to eight broods a year. Senegal Doves also make good foster parents if one is raising some of the more exotic doves.

These non-aggressive birds can be kept with other small doves, but no more than one pair of Senegals should be kept in an aviary as the males can be aggressive toward each other. The doves are hardy, but should be given protection from the elements in northern areas of the country as they come from a hot area of the world. Senegal Doves become quite tame and will even let their keeper check the nest without moving.

Senegal Doves have been bred in captivity since 1861. During the early '60's, white mutations were bred in the Soviet Union and a pied mutation appeared in South Africa in the late '70's.

The doves are referred to in several texts as Laughing Doves, a name probably given them because of their rather soft, five or six note musical call which Goodwin records as "coo-coo-coo-oo, cooroocoo-coo-coocoo".

For the breeder wanting to try and raise some type of foreign dove, Senegal Doves would be a good species because they are usually quite tame and are one of the easier species to breed in captivity.

Goodwin, Derek. Pigeons and Doves of the World (3rd Ed.). Ithica, New York: Cornell University Press. 1983. pp. 128-130.
Neather, Dr. Carl. Prolific Breeder in Captivity: The Senegal Dove, Gazette. Feb. 1974, p. 10.
Vriends, Matthew M. Doves. Hauppauge, New York: Barrons Educational Series, Inc. 1994. pp. 36, 67-68.

August 1995 The Heartland News, Terry Smith