The Fallow Diamond Dove

Mark Gray
Burbank, California

The following article is from the IDS newsletter. It originally appeared in the Bird World magazine in the 1970ís. Not a lot of information was available on this species back then. Mark is actually talking about what we know today as the Brilliant Diamond Dove. From information stated in the article it can be assumed that Mark kept his Diamond Doves in a flight breeding situation with several pairs in the same flight. J.Pire - 2003

Perhaps because of their scarcity, perhaps because Diamond Dove breeders are not formally organized, few people are aware this interesting & beautiful color variation exists.

Some years ago the fallow appeared here & there when breeders doubled up on the silver mutation. By selecting those silvers which seemed lighter than the other silvers, the fallow appeared. Little was known at that time about the fallow diamond dove reported to be occurring in Europe & because of import complexities (doves are considered poultry), few birds were brought into this country.

Why the fallow has not become more plentiful is a mystery, as it seems to be dominant in breeding with normal silvers. At this time only a handful of breeders have any of these birds & only a small number of people still even know about them.

At one time there were pied diamond doves, but they had only occurred in one location & all of the pied birds were lost to an accident, effectively destroying all existing bloodlines carrying pied. The color does occur, however, and an interested breeder should be able to reconstruct some pied by careful crossing. Those who have seen the pied birds say they were lovely.

Diamond Doves are easy to breed & are rather pleasant to have around. They are not noisy or overly aggressive, although they are territorial & will sometimes be aggressive towards others of their kind if they are nesting. Two hens have been known to make their nests together, but this is not satisfactory as you will find out later.

The birds mature at about a year of age & pairing& sex identification is not difficult. The immature (normal) birds are brownish-grey with light bars on the wings. During maturation they take on the appearance of the hen. At about nine to twelve months of age the males can be identified. The males will begin to display & the red eye ring present in both sexes appears to be darker & larger in males. The males (normals) are a bluish-grey & the hens are more towards brownish-grey.

During courtship the males fill their chests with air & lower their heads into their chests. They fan their tails up. He will assume this attitude while following the hen of his choice. He will coo & display (his actions always remind me of a bag-piper) and search for what he feels is a suitable nesting site. He will enter the nesting site & attempt to attract his hen to the "nest" sometimes trying to lure her with a small piece of nesting material which he holds in his beak while he displays & coos. If another hen other than the one he is courting is attracted & responds, he will chase her away, saving himself for his chosen love-object.

The acceptance of his hen forms the pair bond & they build their nest. Like most doves, the nest is sloppy & flimsy. I have found that if you provide some sturdy base, such as a flower-pot tray, large canary nest or a wooden box, it is much better than leaving them to their own devices.

When nesting has started both birds usually help incubate the eggs. There are usually two or three eggs. Whatever number of eggs, the parents will only raise two young. They will allow any third hatchling to die. If two hens have nested in the same place, they may lay four or more eggs between them, but only two young will be raised in that nest. The hens can only count to two, and it doesnít seem to matter whose babies are there, only two will be fed & raised from that location. For this reason it is best to discourage dual nesting sites.

Incubation last approximately two weeks. After hatching, both parents feed the young. They will feed for two weeks after they leave the nest & will often have a new clutch started while still feeding the last.

It is not unusual for a single individual dove to be aggressive & some people may not find that more than one pair can nest successfully in any one flight without some amount of squabbling. The battles are rarely fatal to the adult bird, but nesting & rearing can suffer if there is too much quarreling between pairs. A good pair, well bonded, can be expected to raise young on a regular basis.

In researching diamond doves, little is written regarding the keeping of these birds in captivity. Descriptions of the doves can be found in some reference works. The only reference that I found of any length was in Foreign Birds for Cage and Aviary, by Arthur G. Butler circa 1910. He gives the same general description that most references use & quotes the following from Gould:

"I sometimes met with it in small flocks, but more often in pairs. It runs over the ground with a short bobbing motion of the tail, and while feeding is so remarkable tame as almost to admit of its being taken by hand; and if forced to take wing it merely flies to the nearest tree, and there remains motionless among the branches. I not infrequently observed it close to the open doors of the huts of the stock-keepers of the interior, who from its being so constantly before them, regard it with little interest. The nest is a frail but beautiful structure, formed of the stalks of a few flowering grasses, crossed & interwoven after the manner of the other doves." Mr. Butler goes on to say, "It lays two white eggs. Mr. Gould describes its song as very plaintive; but at times he says that it utters a singular note which much resembles the distant crowing of a cock."

The coo of the cock bird sounds like "Cho-choraw, cho-choraw" but that of the hen is shorter, consisting of only two syllables. In coloring it is prettier than its peaceful relative & its much smaller size renders it charming. In the breeding season, however, it is very spiteful toward its own kind."

"I purchased two pairs of this species in 1896, which were constantly at war, or, rather, the cock birds were, and the death of one of the hens increased the disaffection, so that from morning to night the stronger cock bird chased the weaker up & down the aviary either in the air or on the ground. It was a pretty sight to watch these most active of the smaller doves turning & twisting in the air, in the attempt the one to capture, the other to evade."

"From time to time nesting was commenced & eggs were deposited, but I suppose the incessant quarrelling interfered with the incubation, for no eggs were ever hatched. In 1899 the hen & later the weaker cock bird died, so that I was left with a solitary male. On Sept. 8, 1903, I purchased a third pair & in 1907 turned them out into my larger garden aviary, where they went to nest five times, but only raised four young. The nests were the most ridiculous little apologies that I ever saw, consisting merely of a tiny pad of hay & fine twigs, about three or four inches in diameter. The marvel to me was that the eggs ever remained on it (they did not always). I had heard such wonderful tales about the absolute hardiness of this dove that I left both old & young out-of-doors all the winter, and in consequence, I lost the cock bird & all the young. In 1908 I turned out the remaining cock, but that year only two young were reared, and one of these died about a month later. That year I brought the three doves indoors for the winter. In 1909 I turned out the hen with one cock but the latter was evidently her son; at any rate, she persecuted him continually, tearing out bunches of feathers & hunting him from pillar to post. On July 5th I found him dead.

"Mr. Seth-Smith, who has bred many pairs of this dove, told me that he thought several pairs together, in a fairly large garden aviary, did better than a single pair. Judging from his unvaried success, I should think this was the case. It has been freely bred by many aviculturists, mostly I think in the open; though the fact that in 1905 I twice bred single birds indoors. Though they died when three days out of the nest, seems to indicate that breeding under cover may be possible; in fact, I suspect that in Germany most birds are bred in heated bird rooms."

In so far as breeding habits & successes, not much seems to have changed or improved over the years. My only comment on Mr. Butlerís essay is that he seems to be of the opinions that one of his hens refused to accept a male bird knowing that it was her son. This of course we know not to be true. My personal opinion is that he perhaps was in error in sexing the "male" or that the hen was still pair bonded with the remaining male & might have been able to hear him & did not wish to re-pair with another male.

Breeding the fallow should be a rather simple task. If one is not able to obtain fallow breeding stock, it might be developed with the use of the light silvers. Once obtained, the color is dominant to silver & breeds accordingly. It is for this reason that I do not understand why the color is not more plentiful.

At this time I have no information on colors or genetics when the fallow is bred to the normal. I would like to see those people who are interested in the diamond dove become more in touch with each other & have more exchange of information. The diamond dove is an attractive addition to any mixed collection & much more can be learned about it with a minimum of effort.


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