Species group: Exotic Doves and Pigeons
Other common names: Laughing Dove; Senegal Palm Dove; Palm Dove; Town Dove
Scientific name: Spilopelia senegalensis
There are two species commonly referred to as Laughing Doves. To pet owners and dove hobbyists, the name usually refers to the extremely popular Ring-necked Dove, including the white version sometimes called the White Laughing Dove, which is discussed on its own page. To birders, Laughing Dove can refer to a related species, Spilopelia senegalensis, which we will discuss here. To avoid further confusion, we will use the alternate common name of Senegal Dove, even though this charming dove is found over a broad area of the Middle East, Africa, and into Asia, especially the Indian subcontinent – not just Senegal.
The Senegal Dove is a successful, bold, and adaptable ground-feeding bird that can be seen in a wide variety of habitats, even the center of large cities such as Istanbul. There are five subspecies. The change in genus from Streptopelia to Stigmatopelia and now to Spilopelia is a very recent one, so expect to find lots of references under the older names.
Although no longer considered a Streptopelia dove, the Senegal Dove's boldness around humans and its graceful profile evoke its former cousins. Instead of a ring around its neck, like the Ring-necked Dove, or a blaze on the sides of its neck like the European Turtle Dove, this overall reddish-brown bird has a cinnamon throat speckled with black. Females are slightly smaller and more faded than males. While the classic Ring-necked Dove has many more color mutations, this species also offers a few, such as white and pied, so make sure you understand from the breeder which Laughing Dove you are choosing if it isn't obvious from the neck plumage.
110 - 117 grams (4 pz.)
23 - 28 centimeters (9 - 11 in.)
5 - 10 years
Behavior / temperament:
The delightful Senegal Dove can make a good aviary bird that gets along well with non-competing species, but pairs can become aggressive to members of their own kind in the breeding season. Have one individual or one pair to a flight. Single pets can learn to fly to you for food and attention.Because a reliable pair can have many broods in a year, the Senegal Dove is sometimes used to foster the more challenging species of exotic doves.
A single pet or a pair of Senegal Doves can do very well indoors, but they do need space and an easily cleaned environment. They exercise by flying and by hopping on the ground, so allow for a nice wide area – a good minimum size for the flight might be 36” in length, 24” wide, and 24” tall. Single pets are friendly and look forward to being around family members, so do not isolate them. Some birds can be insistent about cooing for attention if they know you're elsewhere in the house.
If you have experience with the fancy pigeon varieties descended from the Rock Dove, you will have to change your expectations if you want to breed Senegal Doves. These lovable birds that are so gentle to humans are territorial toward others of their own kind, and each pair will require its own flight, pen, or cage during the breeding season. Cleanliness is essential. Whether you have a single pet in an indoor cage or an aviary complex with multiple flights for your pairs, construct the cage with eye toward easy cleaning – and don't forget that these birds bathe in water, so they appreciate a shallow bird bath.
The Senegal Dove was captive-bred in Europe in the London Zoo in 1861, long before modern diets, so it's a pretty easy dove to feed, even for beginners. Choose a high quality dove or budgerigar/parakeet mix. One breeder suggests that wild bird seed mix plus safflower will do as the backbone of the diet. But you also need to provide some variety – chopped fruits and vegetables, greens, pellets (perhaps sprinkled with apple juice), and even access to a few live insects can be a good source of vitamins, minerals, and macro-nutrients. However, the insects should be a rare treat, as some breeders report that overfeeding mealworms has caused fatty liver disease. All doves need access to grit and calcium.
Written by Elaine Radford