Keeping Cape Doves
Julia Kasprzak

The following article comes from a friend, Mrs. Phil Doran, in New Zealand, who herself has raised well over 300 Cape Doves. The article was written and appeared in the Auckland Waikato Avicultural Society magazine, a branch of the Avicultural Society of New Zealand. They cater to all types of birds.

Cape doves come from Africa, so they need a sunny, draft free aviary, preferably one with three sides closed in protecting them from the cold southwest winds, and a roof. They love to bask in the sun, lying on their side with their wings up. On cold sunless days they can look positively miserable, hunched on their perches with their rump feathers up. Content to live with finches (not zebra finches as they are too feisty), and small grass parakeets such as neophemas, this gentle dove has a soft coo-coru call. They can be housed with Diamond Doves, but mixing with other dove species is not recommended. Cape doves can be housed as single pairs, or in a colony with a minimum of three pairs. Keeping two pair together is not recommended as one hen or cock will be dominant and try to have two mates, this will cause much disturbance and prevent breeding success. Do not house with quail, as both species are ground dwellers, and competition for territory will cause a lot of disturbance.

Cape doves eat predominantly white millet, panicum, and a little blue maw. All white millet and panicum I feed is fortified with calcium sandoz syrup, and the Auckland Waikato Avicultural Societyís vitamin powder. One kilo of seed is placed in a bowl, a teaspoon of calcium sandoz syrup is added and mixed thoroughly, then a teaspoon of vitamin powder and a teaspoon of blended cuttlefish powder is added, and again mixed thoroughly. The fortified seed is kept in an airtight container in a cool place out of the sun, or in the fridge for up to a week and fed as needed. Supplementation with ornithon in the drinking water, piminex, oyster grit, kelp granules, corn grits, and blended egg shells (boiled 20 minutes then dried) is recommended.

Cape doves will breed all year, with a peak form November to March. The cock will pursue the hen in typical pigeon fashion, marching after her, cooing, and bowing his head. He will also coo from a perch hoping to attract her to joining him. Both sexes indicate their readiness to mate by lowering their heads and raising their tail while they flick their wings. Prior to mating the cock always feeds the hen. Pair bonding includes mutual necking, and perching within a foot of each other overnight.

Cape doves take readily to an open top nest box 10cm square by 5cm deep, lined with pine needles or river she-oke (casuarina) needles. I donít use hay for nesting materials because it can contain mould spores, which can cause aspergillosis. For each pair of doves I have 2-3 nest boxes. Place box approximately 4-5 feet from the ground, on the wall with a 1 foot square backing of board for privacy and shelter. The cock brings the nesting materials to the hen, which builds the nest. After a cup shaped nest is woven the hen will lay two white eggs, 20mm X 16mm, over a period of 2 or 3 days. The hen usually incubates from 4 pm until 10 am, the cock 10 am Ė 4 pm. Incubation takes 13-16 days.

The chicks fledge at 16-21 days. Until they perch for the evening by themselves it is best to pop them back into their nest box each evening to keep warm.; the hen will often join them. Donít let fledglings go to bed hungry, check their crops every evening, if the parents havenít fed them and you can feel no seed in the crop, tube feed them 3mls of Kayteeís handrearing formula. The hen can relay every 5 weeks. Quite often while the hen is incubating an earlier chick will join her on the nest but this seems to cause no harm. When the chicks are eight weeks old they have usually developed adult plumage, although the cock does not develop the orange beak until he is about six months of age. The parents, and quite often other adults, will occasionally feed the chicks until this age.

Unpaired birds or birds bought for new bloodlines are best kept in a second aviary to prevent disturbance to already bonded pairs. Once a pair in the second aviary have incubated a clutch or raised a brood they may be introduced into the first aviary. For some reason the unpaired birds, especially the cocks, find the mature paired birds irresistible and try everything in their power to woo a paired bird even though they may have 10 unpaired birds of the opposite sex to choose from. This unrequited love results in disturbed incubation, broken eggs, trampled chicks, and many neck feathers being pulled out. If a second aviary is not available a cage that is a minimum of 4 foot long by 2 foot high by 2 foot wide within the aviary will suffice for the bonding of a pair.

In order to identify individuals and prevent brother to sister pairing, color banding with plastic bands in necessary. When pairs have bonded they both get the same color bands put on both legs, e.g. yellow, yellow. Their chicks will get a yellow band on the left leg, which indicates the parentage, and a color band on the right leg, which indicates the individual, e.g., yellow, red. Records can be made noting the hatching date of each chick, and its band combinations.

Dose for worms 3-4 times a year when the parents are not breeding, or when they are incubating, or when the chicks are at least three weeks old. Liming the floor with a sprinkling of garden lime every week will prevent coccidiosis from building up. If you see lots of loose green dropping, especially in the summer, you may need to dose the birds for coccidiosis. A vet can look at fresh dropping under a microscope to determine if coccidiosis treatment is needed, just take a few birds along to the Vet in a box lined with newspaper, it should cost about $10-$20 NZ Dollars.

ADDENDUM: Mrs. Phil Doran; Donít dose for worms when any chicks are being fed, Capes will feed each otherís chicks even if they are not feeding their own. Personally I donít worm the Capes as mine are not with finches or hookbills. I have never found worms in the Capes.

ADDENDUM 2: by John Pire 10/2001

This article and the information deals with the Cape Doves in New Zealand so some things may be a bit different then Julie has stated. The New Zealand summer is November to March; opposite what is summer here in the US. A good point to remember for breeding birds is birds south of the Equator have the breeding season opposite of the birds north of the Equator. Cape eggs are usually off white to cream color. Banding the young using closed numbered leg bands in conjunction with the colored plastic leg bands will make record keeping much more accurate. Note: most male doves are banded on the right leg & female doves on the left leg (this criteria is considered STANDARD PRACTICE among the dove fanciers). This also makes for quick identification of the birdís sex in a large flight (if not a dimorphic species as Capes).

ADDENDUM 3: I was informed by Mrs. Phil Doran on 12/16/01 the Julia had recently passed away. I never had the chance to correspond with Julia, but have read her articles. Mrs. Doran echoes my feeling as well.  "The dove world lost a good friend; Julia, just in her thirties, died unexpectedly last week. Julia was well known in the Finch Clubs in New Zealand and was specializing in the Cape Dove along with her other birds.