The Diamond Dove (Geopelia cuneata) is the smallest of the dove family at around 19-21cm and weighing 23-32 grams. It lives primarily in Australia near water in lightly arid areas or occasionally in parks and gardens. They are flock birds in the wild and prefer to live in colonies in captivity.
They are often seen on the ground, walking along with typical dove head-bobbing movements and when flying, are direct and strong. In captivity, this means it is best to avoid keeping them in cages with wire bottoms as they will find this difficult to manage.
These small doves are grey in the body with white diamond specks on the wings. They have an orange ring around their eye which can be used to define fender. In the wild, they live only 3-5 years but the average lifespan in captivity is 15-25 years. On average, the diamond dove is 9-11 inches in length and both sexes look very similar, with sexing only really done by the size and colour of the eye ring, which is duller and smaller on the female.
Since being kept for many, many generation, there have developed different colours, or mutations. These include silver birds, all white variations and even ones which are termed as red, a rusty brown red.
Diamonds eat seed from grasses as well as eating insects such as ants in the wild. As kept birds, they will eat greens and vegetables as well as seeds but these will need to be softer varieties such as kale or spinach as their beaks are not designed for pecking apart food. They also need access to grit to help break down the seeds in their stomach as they eat them whole.
Doves can bond to humans if raised from a young age but take a lot of work to achieve this. Once bonded, they will preen their human and sit on the shoulder or finger. The downside can be that they may come to see the person as their mate which can lead to egg-laying and over dependence on the owner.
Unless hand-fed, they are not particularly interactive birds with humans. They will avoid a hand but will not peck and if caught, tend to squirm and wriggle to get free rather than attack the hand. Of all the birds, they are one of the easiest to catch and check for things such as mites, due to their light colouring.
The most important thing to remember when choosing a cage for diamond doves is that they cannot climb up bars like parrot-type birds, or even cling to them as finches do. They need to be able to fly from place to place, so a wider cage is advisable as opposed to a tall, thin one.
Diamond doves will live happily with other birds in a large cage or mixed aviary. Sometimes due to their placid nature, they can be plucked for nesting material by other more confident birds such as zebra finch or canaries. I have found that they do turn eventually and stop the plucking and then life settles down. Should a bird not defend itself, then perhaps a mixed aviary is not suitable. All birds have a different personality.
If you decide to keep your birds in a cage in the house, beware they can be prone to night frights. From experience, I would not advise they be kept in the bedroom as when they get frightened, they can cause quite a ruckus and will wake most people. Otherwise, they will get their bearings against and settle back down.
For all they are small diamond doves can make quite a loud noise, mostly when the male is trying to attract the attention of the female. Aside from the call, they make a variety of typical dove-family cooing sounds with different calls for different situations.
These little doves do not have any particular common illnesses and are relatively hardy. Depending on what conditions they have been bred in, they have no special need for heat in the winter, as long as a shelter is provided. They also visually display signs of ill health if they are unwell such as being fluffed up or listless. Both of these things are done to conserve energy and warmth to fight illness.
When the hen shows signs of being ready to breed, the male will display for her, flaring out his tail feathers, bowing and cooing to her. They are affectionate little birds and almost seem to cuddle each other before mating occurs.
Nests are built from grasses and twigs but are somewhat fragile in appearance. Usually this can be in a nest pan, which tends to be a platform with a low lip around it. I have known doves use finch nesting boxes, which are a bit tight, and food bowls, as well. Sometimes you can add the perfect nest for the bird but this doesn’t mean they will use it!
Only two eggs are laid and are incubated for 13-14 days. Chicks fledge quickly and will be feathered and out of the nest in around two weeks, though ability to fly may not be strong at first.
Once the chicks have fledged they are fed by their parents for around three weeks. They are quite demanding at times and seem to throw a wing around the parent to persuade them to feed. The more demanding the chick is the greater the chance it can feed itself and the parent is weaning it. They demand from their parent as much for attention as the need for food. Sometimes it can be necessary to separate the chicks once they are eating on their own to avoid conflict when the parents go down to nest again.
Diamond Doves are easy to keep, inexpensive to buy and to feed and have no specialised needs. While they may not be the most interactive bird, they are often interesting to watch and very busy. Their affection levels with each other is heart-warming, and their display dances to a female is impressive for their miniature size. A great start-up bird.