The Uncommon Bronzewing Dove
By Tony Brancato

The Common Bronzewing Dove (Phaps chalcoptera) is undoubtedly one of the most attractive large seed-eating pigeons. The bronzewing family includes the beautiful Brush Bronzewing Dove (Phalps elegans) and the unique Australian Crested Pigeon (Ocyphaps lophotes). Regardless, this pigeon-sized dove is an extraordinary aviary bird. In the United States they are called Bronzewings, and they are fairly common throughout the country.

In their native Australia, Common Bronzewing doves live in sparse woodlands dotted with dense clumps of low scrub. Habitat loss due to sheep and wheat farming has caused their populations to fluctuate. However, Common Bronzewing doves have prospered. Their survival can be attributed to the introduction of a weed in wheat growing areas called Salvation Jane (Echium plantagineum). Despite illegal shootings that occur in some areas, the species appears to be secure throughout the continent.

In the colonization of Australia, the Common Bronzewing doves became a favorite protein source due to its size. Luckily, the species fed on poisonous seeds. Otherwise the species could have gone the way of the passenger pigeon into extinction.

Unlike its flashy relative, the Australian Crested Dove, the Common Bronzewing does not form family groups. It is commonly seen in the wild in small flocks of two and three pairs. This species is docile by nature and, in the wild, can be approached fairly closely. They will fly off if you make any sudden movements.

The adult male is mostly brown, except for the mantle that is a lighter brown. The edges of the feathers are darker and the over all appearance is that of a pheasant. The secondaries have a prominent wing mirror of metallic green, bronze-orange and metallic blue. The crown of the head is brown with a purple stripe behind the forehead. The forehead is buff to gold in the male and totally absent in the hen. The breast is pale vinaceous pink, shaded to grey on the abdomen. The under tail is also grey. The iris in both sexes is yellow, while the bill is black. The feet are typical of most pigeons, a red-purple color.

The adult female bronzewing is duller in color than the male. The hen lacks the buff or yellow forehead as well as the pink breast.

Juveniles are similar to the adult hen but even duller in color. The rich colors develop at maturity. Sexual maturity is reached between 6 to 8 months of age.

The male displays its courtship on the ground by hopping at the female while uttering a growling "coo." The wings are arched outward and the tail is raised and fanned. In most species, male doves will feed their mates during courtship. This is not true with the Common Bronzewing male. Instead of feeding its mate the male will lay its neck over the back of the hen. The pair circles until the hen bobs down for copulation.

The Common Bronzewing male has a fairly loud "coo," although not as loud as most domestic pigeons or doves. The call appears to be territorial/location in nature. The mating ritual is very subdued. In captivity this species is fairly easy to breed. Common Bronzewings are non-aggressive towards other avian species. They are extremely mellow and gentle. Adult males can weigh nearly 16 ounces and adult hen nearly 14 ounces.

Bronzewings are true ground dwellers. They spend their entire day on the ground. In the evening they roost on branches or perches 6 to 15 feet high. They also nest off the ground. In my experience, bronzewings will nest in a basket or nest box the size of a cigar box. I keep one pair of common bronzewings per aviary. In limited space, I have kept two pairs without any problems. I have found them to be excellent parents. Both parents incubate the eggs. If fertile, the eggs will hatch within 17 to 18 days. The young squabs are totally dependent on their parents.

I house all my doves in sunny, draft-free aviaries. Since the common bronzewing dove is pigeon-sized, they require plenty of space. An aviary 6 feet wide, 10 feet long, 6 feet high would do nicely for one pair of these large doves. Most of our aviaries are 15 feet wide, 30 feet long and 8 feet high. We can house many more species of smaller doves with our bronzewings without problems. Housing, regardless of species, should always be dry, sunny and draft-free. A southern or south-eastern exposure is preferable for doves.

In the wild, these doves eat a variety of seeds and some small insects. I have never witnessed any of our bronzewings eating mealworms, but perhaps they do. Since our collection is entirely a seed-eating species, the main diet consists of seeds. Seed-eating species, however, relish some soft foods. Steamed vegetables, rice and raw fruits and vegetables are provided to our doves weekly. Likewise, fresh water, grit and cuttlebone are always available in each aviary.

The Common Bronzewing dove is an excellent aviary bird. They are large and that may deter the small bird fancier from including them in his or her collection. The gentle nature and the species' docile temperament towards other avian species make the Common Bronzewing a special bird. They are most dove collectors' favorites!