THESE pretty and graceful little members of the pigeon family came originally from north-east Africa. They are found in two colours, the cream or fawn with black half-collar, which represents the mild colour, and a white variety. Young birds of the former kind are distinguished from adults by being paler, especially about the red feet, and by having hardly any collar showing.
The sexes are, if anything, even more alike than in pigeons, and the picking out of a pair is the only real difficulty in breeding these birds, for they will nesb even in a cage. If so confined, however, they should be often let out for a fly round a room or shed, for no pigeon is really suited to cage life.
In an aviary they are much at home, and are much livelier than any breed of pigeons when so confined; but they are also much more quarrelsome with each other, in spite of their look of extreme gentleness. They will even attack pigeons, but do not trouble other sorts of birds.
Being tree-birds, not rock-birds liko pigeons, they need ordinary perches and open nesting baskets, not shelves and boxes; and as they are smaller they should be fed on the smaller sorts of corn, like wheat, dari and hemp. Green food should be supplied as for pigeons, also grit, salt and old mortar.
The hen dove, like the hen pigeon, lays but two eggs at a sitting and these on consecutive days, whereas the hen pigeon misses a day after laying the first of her two. The cock dove, however, helps in the sitting and rearing in the same way as the pigeon does, observing similar hours of duty. The incubation period is 15 days.
Doves can be accustomed to fly loose, but only where there are trees, and having been bred for many generations in captivity, run considerable risks from cats and birds of prey. But they look very pretty darting about among the trees, and their cooing sounds much more pleasant than in a cage or aviary. They can bear the winter if they survive and settle down in the open at all, and often breed in the free state here.
Living for Twenty Years
Contrary to the usual rule that the larger species in a family live longer than the smaller, the dove is a much longer-lived bird than the pigeon, living for twenty years or more instead of about ten. Liko the pigeon, it raises several broods yearly.