Ringneck Dove History

Streptopelia risoria
by John Pire

    The "RINGNECK DOVE" is commonly kept by dove fanciers around the world. The "ringneck dove" was first described in 1758. It is also known as the Barbary Dove, Java or Sacred White Dove (white color phase) and Laughing Dove. In the circle of dove/pigeon fanciers when the term "ringneck" is used, most know which specie is being referred to.

     I believe the "Ringneck" is the long domesticated form, some 2000-3000 years, of the African Collared Dove (Streptopelia roseogrisea *). The original ancestor is unknown. Most books and articles which deal with wild dove/pigeon species give the "ringneck" specific status under the name "risoria" in the genus "Streptopelia". Thus it is listed as: Streptopelia risoria.

    In the days of pigeon/dove expert C.O. Whitman (1832-1910) the "Blond Ringneck" and "White Ringneck" were thought to be two different species/races of dove.  They were even given separate Latin names; the "blond" was Steptopelia risoria and the "white" was Streptopelia alba. 

The Posthumous Works of C. O. Whitman. C.O. Whitman did extensive research in the columbidae family; including studying a breeding population of Passenger Pigeons in captivity. The last living Passenger Pigeon "Martha" originated from a flock of C.O. Whitman's birds.

    In Derek Goodwin's book; Pigeon & Doves of the World, 3rd Printing 1983; he states in his description of the specie: "wing & tail proportions usually as in parental form but often with proportionately longer tail. It is possible, but unlikely, that this may be due to past hybridization of domestic stock with Streptopelia decaocto". Further on in his description he states: " In recent years back-crossing to imported wild Streptopelia roseogrisea has resulted in "Barbary Doves" of the wild color being available. (Burger, R.E. & Hollander, W.F. 1971).

    The "ringneck" was only known in the fawn and white colors up until the introduction of the African Collared Dove (Streptopelia roseogrisea). Once the African Collared Dove's wild coloration was introduced into the "domestic ringneck" many new color mutations began to appear. There are 40 plus known color mutations or patterns in the Ringneck Dove which are now know or accepted by the Dove Associations. 

*(S. roseogrisea is the African Collared Dove).

Personal thoughts from the author (J Pire) on the acceptance of which species was imported into the US and bred to the domestic Ringneck Dove.

Being interested in the Exotic species of doves/pigeons for many years I came to know many of the old time dove fanciers around the US. The story about the importation of the doves which were assumed to be Streptopelia decaocto and used to breed to the ringneck is told as the following. The big fanciers, J W Steinbeck, Sebastiani, Guy Hughes and others were always getting new birds from different sources. One importation included African Collared Doves (Streptopelia roseogriesea). Two of the three races were included in this shipment. The birds were brought in as RED-EYED DOVES. This name was listed on the shipment papers so that they could be exported form the place of origin. Here is the kicker - this name only applies or is used to describe a single "ring-necked" specie - the Red-eyed or Half-collared Dove (Streptopelia semitorquata). The Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) is not known  by this name anywhere.

There can be no confusion between the two species, S decaocto and S. semitorquata, they are totally different looking from each other (SPECIE COMPARISON). Size is also quite different, with the Half-collared/Red-eyed Dove being the largest of all the "ring-necked species". The S. decaocto also has a unique voice and calls; "spikes" on the underside of the tail; these two facets are not found in any other ring-necked dove species. Click the link for a pic of tail spikes unique to S. decaocto.

Hybrids between the S. risoria and S decaocto show altered tail spikes. The major facet of the hybrids is their voices; the voices of the different parents are combined in the hybrids and is really screwed up in the hybrids. Hybrids of 3/4 and 7/8 back to S. decaocto can still have signs of the parent ringneck in their voices.

Another interesting fact is the "scream" of S. decaocto, whether it be male or female. This scream makes one take notice when it is heard. Both birds "scream" at the completion of the mating act. Males & Females "scream" when defending their territory, chasing other birds, alighting on top of a utility pole, etc. Even the hybrids with "risoria" screamed for the same reasons as pure ECD. 

Males have a three syllable coo compared to the male S. risoria' s two syllable coo. Females also have this three syllable coo. (Visit the Calls page for the voices)

Having this interest in the different wild ring-necked species for over 25 years, combined with these  points and many more I have observed of the differences between the two species (decaocto & risoria) leads me to believe the specie S. rosegriesea as the bird bred to the common Ringneck in the 1950's and 1960's. It was the specie imported.

I used personal experiences with the S. decaocto to make the conclusion I reached. I personally do not think these unique features of S. decaocto could be overlooked - on a new species being introduced into the fancy for the first time. The common ringneck (S. risoria) was only known in two colors (blond and white); this new specie was a different color, was much larger, had a different voice, had a unique undertail pattern and does not do well in small confinement. Hard facts to not notice or describe.

risoria & decaocto comparisons

   Excerpt: British Birds, number 5, Vol. XLVI, May 1953; James Fisher -author. COLLARED TURTLE DOVE IN EUROPE
The Barbary Dove

    This small, pale form of a Streptopelia species appears to exist only in domesticity. It was first described by Linnaeus in 1756 as Columba risoria. It is often known as the "Collared Dove" and its superficial similarity to S. decaocto in the field has led to confusion, though the distinguishing characteristics are clear (apart from voice, size and colour, the distribution of black on the rectrices is quite different, and the blackish primaries of S. decaocto are diagnostic and a good field-character). The origin of Streptopelia risoria is not certain. Authorities such as I. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire* (1860, 1861, quoted Oustalet) and Oustalet (1901) -- favoring decaocto and others like Shelley (1883) and Hartert (1916) roseogrisea; but is probably derived from S. roseogrisea, brought across to Italy and other countries of Europe from the Sudan via Egypt as a domestic house-bird in the second half of the sixteenth century (see e.g. U. Aldrovandi, 1599; Adametz and Stresemann, 1948), Schwenckfeld (1603) records it as imported to Silesia at 2 guilders a pair. In Italy particularly, but also in other parts of Europe including south England, Barbary Doves have established themselves in gardens and parks in a semi-domestic, semi-wild state. A. E. Brehm, the Italian edition (1898) of whose Leben der Vogel (first published in 1861) is quoted by E. Moltoni (1950b), writes of a great number at liberty in the gardens of the Castle of Miramar, near Trieste; and F. Arnold (1897) mentions some "lachtauben" on the islands in Lago Maggiore which from his description are clearly Barbaries. Already by 1792 or 1793 semi-albino S. risoria has been introduced by the Dutch into Bouton Isle in the Tonga group. Pacific Ocean (Oustalet 1901) which led to the belief, entertained for some time, that the species originated in the Pacific.
Taka-Tsukasa and Hachisuka (1925) record that albino risoria were introduced by the Chinese into the Pescadores Islands, off the western coast of Formosa and have become quite common in the feral state, no coloured forms occurring.

*I. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire thought that the turtle doves kept as a table bird by ancient Romans was S. risoria and that it was therefore most likely to be of Asiatic (thus decaocto) origin. But the Romans' birds did not breed in captivity and were most likely ordinary Turtle Doves (S. turtur).

(J.Pire 10/2000)

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