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The White-Fronted Dove

The white-fronted doves are easy-going, lovely doves that are easy to maintain, but are not good breeders.

By Tony Brancato

The white-fronted dove (Leptotila verreauxi) is approximately mid-sized between a common domestic pigeon and the common domestic ring-necked dove. It is also called the white-tipped dove, the solitary pigeon, the wood pigeon and the pale-fronted dove. The latter name fits more aptly, because the white-front is actually a paler grayish-white rather than pure white.

This species is very mellow. The delightful and beautiful white-fronted dove is quiet, calm and nonhostile toward other doves, both small and large. The photographs do not do this species justice. Although the white-fronted dove is easy to maintain, it is not a prolific breeder. This might be due to inbreeding in captivity. I have tried unsuccessfully to get some unrelated white-fronted doves. It grieves me that there are so few in captivity. This dove is perhaps one of the least wild and flighty native species.

Description Of The White-Fronted Dove
The forehead on the adult male is pale pink and nearly white, the body is pinkish-gray and the male has a slightly purple iridescence on the crown and neck. The gray underparts fade into olive brown; the breast is a pale smoky white. The tail feathers are brownish-gray with the outers ones being nearly black and tipped with white. The throat is nearly pure white. The feathers beneath the wings are a rich chestnut color (many species share this same coloration underneath their wings). The eyes can be gold, golden-brown, yellow or even orange. The orbital skin surrounding the eyes is pale blue, bluish-green or even bluish-gray in some individuals. The bill is black, sometimes even dark umber. Feet and legs are typical pigeon color, purplish-red or very dark brick red.

The female, as with most doves and pigeons, is a little duller in color with less sheen and is more petite. Juveniles are reddish buff and resemble the female until the first molt.

Habitat Of The White-Fronted Dove
The white-fronted dove is native to southern Texas, Mexico, Central America, northern Colombia, northern Venezuela, and as far south as the Amazon Valley in northeastern Brazil. Subspecies of the white-fronted dove occur in other South American countries, including Argentina. The dove inhabits open woodlands, edges of forested areas and brushy country in subtropical and tropical geographical areas. In the United States, this species is found in the lower Rio Grande valley of Texas. I am dismayed to say it is classified as a game bird in Texas.


As with all native species, a federal permit is required to keep it. It is illegal to keep white-fronted doves in captivity without a permit from the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Behavior Of The White-Fronted Dove
In the wild, the white-fronted dove feeds mainly on the ground and eats a variety of weed seeds, various berries and some small invertebrates. Although they prefer to feed near bushes and shrubbery, they will feed in open areas as well. In the lower Rio Grande valley, white-fronted doves have been observed feeding in pairs or singly. Often there are as many as a dozen individuals in a small flock.

I have observed that this species has a mannerism common to some dove species. It frequently jerks its tail up and down when landing on a branch or on the ground.

I have not heard my white-fronted doves coo. They are not vocal for doves. Because they are in aviaries with many other, more vocal species, the white-fronted doves are more subdued. I am told that the cooing is barely audible and is a deep, long, drawn-out moaning coo. The courtship is atypical, with bowing and spreading of the tail by the male bird.

White-Fronted Dove Nesting
White-fronted doves nest in trees or shrubbery. Mine like to make elaborate nests with twigs and straw. The nests are flimsy at best and look untidy. The hen lays two creamy, buff eggs before serious incubation occurs. Both parents take turns incubating the eggs. If fertile, the eggs will hatch in approximately 14 days.

Food For The White-Fronted Dove
I feed our doves a good quality finch mix and wildbird seed. To this mixture (50 percent of each) I add safflower seed. As a special treat, every other day, I provide all of our doves with steamed rice and sweet corn, grated raw carrots, shelled sunflower seeds, niger seeds and grated raw peanuts. Usually, the soft food is consumed within minutes after it is put into the flights! I also provide mealworms as an occasional treat (during hot weather, all soft foods can become contaminated and grow bacteria. It is wise to remove all uneaten food within 30 minutes).

Housing For The White-Fronted Dove
The white-fronted dove is considered a medium-sized dove. Its housing requirements are modest. In cold climates, this species requires a heated aviary. I doubt that it could tolerate many days of below freezing temperatures. A spacious south or southeastern exposure best suits these doves.

All doves thrive in a dry, draft-free shelter. Adapting a pre-existent aviary to a dove aviary is not always the best idea. Although the cost factor is a lot less than starting from scratch, the negatives offset the positives. I had some old pigeon lofts I converted into dove aviaries. The cost factor of building new aviaries compared to remodeling the old ones was a strong incentive to keep the old ones. I lived to regret that decision. (Old structures are hard to make vermin-proof. If other birds, such as poultry or pigeons, were in the structure, more than likely it is infested with parasites of all kinds.) Aviaries for doves need not be expensive. It is prudent to wait until you can afford to provide the proper shelter. An attractive, well-built aviary is conducive to good health and hygiene for the doves. A dove such as the white-fronted dove is easy to maintain and deserves our best efforts to provide it with healthy environment.


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