Zebra Dove

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Is the Zebra Dove right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Barred Ground Dove

Scientific name: Geopelia striata

The basics:
The charming Zebra Dove, considered a bird of good luck in Asia, is a hardy, attractive species that recommends itself both to beginners and more advanced hobbyists interested in stocking a mixed species, planted aviary. They can be prolific breeders indeed, so that there are actual Zebra Dove “farms” working in Thailand and Malaysia to provide pet and exhibition quality birds. Some of these farms focus on a good voice. For a small dove, the Zebra Dove has a surprisingly loud and well-developed coo.

The Zebra Dove, Peaceful Dove, and Barred Dove were once three subspecies of the same species, which have now been split. The Zebra Dove is the version found in southeast Asia, including Thailand and Cambodia, as well as Malaysia, the Philippines, and some western Indonesian Islands. The Peaceful Dove is the version from Australia and New Guinea. The Zebra Dove is a very successful small dove that adapts well to a variety of warm, open habitats that allow it to forage for food on the ground. Americans can easily see an introduced population on the streets of Honolulu, Hawaii.

The Zebra Dove is named for the black and white bars on its nape, alongside its breast, and down its sides. Its relative, the Peaceful Dove, also has black and white zebra stripes, but they run right across the breast and around the neck, sort of like the neck of a turtleneck sweater.

50 - 60 grams (1.8 - 2.1 oz.)

Average size:
21 - 22 centimeters (8.5 in.)

5 - 10 years

Behavior / temperament:
The Zebra Dove, while still a fairly easy bird for the beginner, can start to offer some of the personality challenges of the wilder, shyer doves. A single bird, handled with gentleness and patience, will become a good pet who loves to spend time with you, but they are not so quick to be bribed into friendship as some of the other doves. Give them a little time. A single bird, especially a male, may enjoy cooing for you, and he will respond if you sing back to him.

While they do deserve their reputation as good breeders, some pairs of Zebra Doves can try to rush the process, laying eggs and starting family after family, only to quit feeding before the babies are quite ready to be fully independent. Breeders who also work with Ring-necked Doves have sometimes fostered the baby Zebras to the Ring-necks.

The adaptable, easy-going Zebra Dove has been successfully kept and bred in cages as well as aviaries. They do like to spend a lot of time on the ground, so design your cage or aviary with ease of cleaning the floor in the forefront of your mind. A single pet who follows you around indoors may often be at your feet or chasing your toes, so know where your bird is at all times to avoid stepping on it by accident. A single pet or pair can be maintained in a cage 3' by 2' by 2' although a more generous flight is always better if you're asking them to share with another species, such as a pair of finches. Small doves are considered a tasty prey, so be certain that your outdoor aviary is secure from predators.

In the mixed-species aviary, be aware that Zebra Doves have sometimes proven to be more feisty than you'd expect from a bird of that size. Make sure you have them housed in an area with plenty of space, including cover, for everyone. Their aviary companions should be non-competing species, not other pairs of Zebra Doves. You should also avoid housing them with their close relatives, like Peaceful Doves. These birds wouldn't meet in the wild and don't know better than to hybridize with each other in captivity.

The Zebra Dove is an easy bird to feed for the person who has some experience with finches, perhaps one reason that many finch breeders ultimately consider adding a pair of these doves to their aviary. The backbone of the diet is a good quality finch seed mix, but you should add some small game bird or quail pellets, millet sprays, eggfood, and greens like chickweed and sprouted millet sprays. All doves should have access to clean grit. They may bathe in water, so supply a shallow pan of bathing water as well as drinking water. These sun-loving birds may require vitamin D3 added to the diet if kept indoors, since this vitamin is normally formed in the body in response to sunlight. Ask your breeder or avian vet for a recommendation.

Written by Elaine Radford

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