by John Pire
The original article, was written in August 1987 by C. Perry and J. Pire. I have rewritten it now with the intention that the tips, observations and information contained in the article will be of help to the breeders/fanciers who have this species of dove in their bird collection but have not yet been successful in propagating them. Also to entice the fanciers who do not keep this species to add them in the future.
In reading this article the reader is reminded that the system worked on the Zebra Doves kept in our collection of Exotic Doves & Pigeons. Not all Zebra Doves follow the "rule of thumb" and may not behave as the pairs kept by us. Observations of your own birds will greatly aid you in being able to set-up a system in which the birds will feel comfortable enough to reproduce.
Many times altering one aspect within the flight/aviary where the birds are will be enough to induce the interest to reproduce. Watching where the male or hen has chosen to build a nest site and placing some type of nesting basket or platform may be all that works. Be sure to attach the added support securely to prevent the eggs or young from being "bounced out" when the parents land on the nest site.
The flight/aviary the Zebra Doves were housed in was a combination of three flight cages, end to end. All were open to each other. The overall dimensions were eight feet wide, eighteen feet long and from six to nine feet high. The entire top was covered with corrugated galvanized sheet metal panels. The floor was covered with sand. A plum tree was in the tallest section.
This was a community flight/aviary. It housed the following species of doves: 4 pair of Zebra Doves, 4 young Mourning Doves, 4 young White-winged Doves, 1 pair White-fronted Doves, 2 pair Senegal Doves, 2 pair Laceneck Doves, 4 young Inca Doves, 2 pair Greenwing Doves and several pairs of different colored Ringneck Doves. Very little interference was observed. The most problematic birds were the male Ringnecks who constantly were trying to take over any nest site any other pair of birds had selected.
Several nests of fertile Zebra Dove eggs were lost due to this interference. The Zebras would lay their clutch of fertile eggs and within several days we would find the eggs broken or abandoned. It was soon observed that the Ringnecks were causing this interference. To alleviate this interference with the nesting Zebra Doves a very simple wire nest guard was devised. This "guard" was constructed from 2" by 2" welded wire or 2" by 4" welded wire. These nest guards were placed around the preferred nesting sites of the Zebras. In using the 2" by 2" wire we had to cut out cross wires to make several openings which were then 2" wide by 4" high. All sharp edges were filed smooth. These opening were on opposite sides or adjoining sides. Placement of the openings depended on the nest site area. These opening allowed the Zebras access to the nest but prevented the larger species from getting into the nest and taking it over.
An interesting fact was observed shortly after the nest guards were installed. Before the guards were put around the nest sites the Zebra were quite easily disturbed off the nest. With the guards in place the Zebras figured out they were for the protection of their nests. They soon became almost as tight sitting as commonly found in the Ringneck Doves. They stayed on the eggs or young until a hand was inserted into the opening of the nest guard. The Zebras would then calmly walk out the opposite opening. As soon as we removed our hand and moved away from the nest the Zebras could be seen heading back to their protected nest area.
In each of the guarded nest area we installed a small wicker basket. These were securely attached to the platforms. Straw/hay, dried grasses, pine needles and small pliable twigs were furnished as nesting materials. The nests of the Zebras differed between the pairs. Two pair built the "typical" dove nest of an arrangement of very few twigs. Another pair never used more then the bare wicker basket (adding nothing). One pair built a nest, which would put any Canary hen to shame.
The diet consisted of a seed mix. The standard pigeon mix was used. To this we added more milo, red & white millet, safflower, wheat, sunflower hearts, parakeet and finch mix. Observations made it easy to feed the amount eaten in a single day. Red mineral grit was available to the birds all the time. Fresh water was given ever day. If we needed to add vitamins, minerals or medication we used the water-soluble types. The daily routine we had established ensured the birds would drink when the water containers were cleaned and refilled thus getting what we had added.
Exotic Doves and Pigeons are known as creatures of habit. Anything they are not used to or routine to them can cause upset within the flight/aviary. Setting up a routine will help the birds become accustomed to you and feel secure enough to reproduce. On the other hand too much interference by the keeper can also be detrimental to the birds trying to nest and raise young.
I hope that the tips and information here will help fanciers propagate this beautiful little dove. If you do not have this dove in your bird collection you can become a member of the American Dove Association or the Canadian Dove Association. These clubs have members who keep many of different species of Exotic Doves/Pigeons.
J. Pire 1/01