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Black-Winged Ground Doves

The black-winged ground dove inhabits temperate zones in a variety of South American countries.

By Tony Brancato

The black-winged ground dove (Metriopelia melanoptera) is nearly three-quarters the size of a common domestic ringneck dove. It is plump with a proportionately shorter tail and wings. The male's body is basically a tannish-gray with shading that is nearly the color of raw umber. The body possesses a pinkish sheen in the sunlight. Two snow-white patches adorn each shoulder and along the edge of the underwing. The primary wing feathers and the outer secondaries, as well as most of the underwings, are black. The tail feathers are Payne's gray, shading to black. The throat is a soft pale pink that is nearly white. The pale pinkish color extends on the belly and ends nearly pale gray at the vent.

The eyes are unique and striking, being bright green in some individuals and pale blue or soft violet in others. Each eye is outlined in a bright red ring. The skin surrounding the eyes is a very bright orangish-yellow, gold or salmon pink. Its legs and feet are very dark raw umber or even black.

The female is nearly identical to the male in appearance, except she has less pink sheen and the orbital skin is less bright than on the male. Black-winged ground doves are not too difficult to sex at maturity.

Black-Winged Ground Doves In The Wild
The black-winged ground dove inhabits temperate zones in a variety of South American countries. It ranges from Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Columbia and Argentina. Its favorite areas are in wooded hillsides. However, it is also found in lesser numbers in arid and scrub environments. Black-winged ground doves are migratory. They migrate to lower elevations in winter and even to coastal areas. It is not terribly uncommon to see these delightful doves in small flocks in villages and farms.

Black-Winged Ground Doves As Aviary Birds
Several years ago an importer in Miami, Florida, brought several hundred of these doves into the United States. Before this importation, only a few fanciers were breeding the black-winged ground dove. This introduction of new genes greatly helped the present U.S. stock. I was fortunate enough to purchase two pairs of wild-caught birds.

The doves I received were quite docile and settled into captivity without hesitation. I put both pairs into a large, planted aviary. Within a month, both pairs were on eggs! Wild-caught doves seldom breed the first year or even the second.

From these two pairs I raised nearly a dozen offspring that first year. The second breeding season, the two original pairs produced just one young apiece. Each succeeding breeding season was worse. Why? In the wild, most dove species only reproduce one or two offspring to replace themselves. It is totally abnormal for wild doves to breed large numbers of offspring. The first year in captivity, with an abundance of food and no predators, these South American jewels outdid themselves. Seldom, if ever, will wild doves continue to breed like their domestic cousins.

Unique Qualities Of The Black-Winged Ground Doves
The black-winged ground dove has some unusual and unique differences compared to other doves. When it flies, air rushes through its flights — making a whistle-like sound. Perhaps the most endearing quality is the way this dove calls. It does not coo like most of its kin. The male chirps when calling the hen. The chirping is short and low key. The hen does not chirp in return. I have not heard the female of this species make any sound. Perhaps she does, but I have never heard any sounds.

Special Needs For Black-Winged Ground Doves
Black-winged ground doves are prone to internal parasites such as roundworms. I routinely have droppings analyzed by our avian veterinarian for the presence of internal parasites. Doves housed on dirt floors are far more susceptible to parasites than doves housed on wood floors. Open-top wire flights are at risk for contamination by wild bird droppings A major source of internal and external parasites, as well as disease, in aviary birds can be attributed to wild birds. Other than this parasite risk, the black-winged ground dove is a hardy species. Given a dry, draft-free environment, it does very well. All doves need plenty of sunshine and an aviary where they feel safe and secure.

Food For The Black-Winged Ground Doves
Black-winged ground doves usually thrive on a basic seed diet/food — a good quality finch mix, wild bird seed and, of course, fresh clean water. I feed all of my doves soft food. However, I know many doves breeders that do not, and their doves seem to thrive just as well. Nevertheless, it is my personal conviction that all doves relish some soft foods. I provide steamed rice, raw, grated vegetables and fruits, and mealworms. Our black-winged ground doves devour the soft food in less than 15 minutes. I never overdo the soft food. lt is strictly a treat to be consumed quickly. Giving doves huge amounts of soft food is not recommended. Soft foods are excellent mediums for bacteria in warm weather. Sterilization of all drinking and food dishes keeps nasty germs at bay. Spray millet, cuttlebone and other specialty seeds, such as niger, keep these small doves happy and healthy.

Breeding The Black-Winged Ground Doves
This species is no more or less easy to breed than most foreign doves. Some pairs are excellent parents — others are not. Unlike many of the South American dove species, the black-winged ground dove does very well in a group or colony breeding situation. The males do not quarrel nor do they become territorial and fight over nesting areas. Each pair ignores its kin and concentrates on its own nest. I have not seen any fighting among any of the doves. Nor do they act aggressively toward other small dove species.

Two eggs are normal for this species. Both parents incubate the eggs, and hatching usually occurs on the 14th or 15th day. The young fledge at 2 weeks and continue to be cared for by their parents.

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