By Tony Brancato
The Galapagos dove (Zenaida galapagoensis) is one of the most fascinating doves of the New World. It is nearly the same size of a common ring-necked dove (Streptopelia capicola), but chunkier, with longer legs and a shorter tail. It is almost partridge-like in shape. The bill is long and curved downward.
|Photo: Tony Brancato|
With a personality sharing equal parts tameness and curiosity, the Galapagos dove will delight most who get to know it.
This dove's head, neck and breast are port wine to a dull purplish-pink in color. The male is soft gray, having wings covered with small white spots. The underside is paler in color with black and white stripes on the wings. Primary flights are black with narrow white edges. The bill is dark, orbital rings around the eyes are blue, and the iris is umber. Feet and legs are purplish-red. The female tends to be slightly duller in color with less pink and more faded brown. Juveniles are also dull with a rusty color on the fringes of many of the cover feathers. The male tends to be slightly larger than the hen.
This dove gets its name from the Galapagos Islands off the coast of South America. They inhabit dry, rocky low country. Galapagos doves are typical ground doves. Their strong legs and broad feet aid in poking about in the volcanic soil in search of food. Flight is rapid and quite swift. It is not unusual for this species to migrate from island to island.
Galapagos doves, like most dove species, build flimsy nests constructed in rock crevices and hollows. Usually, two eggs are laid, with incubation lasting 16 or 17 days.
In captivity, Galapagos doves should be provided with an aviary that has several inches of clean, washed sand and several large rocks. Because this species is inclined to be quite pugnacious, only one pair per aviary is recommended. Nests can be either placed among the rocks or on a low shelf. Unfortunately, this species is not winter hardy. During late fall and winter, Galapagos doves should be brought indoors to a heated basement, garage or aviary. For best results, temperatures for this dove should not fall below 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Courtship is initiated by the male uttering a very soft coo, while following the hen with his feathers fluffed. Occasionally, he will stand motionless with his bill pointed almost vertically downward. He tries to lure the hen toward the nest by bowing, spreading his tail feathers and fluttering both wings. The young Galapagos doves usually fledge when they are ready to fly. They will spend several days on the ground, returning to the nest at night. Juveniles should be removed from the breeding aviary once they are weaned.
We feed our Galapagos doves finch mix, wild birdseed and semi-soft dog food. Special treats include: leafy vegetables, bread crumbs, mashed hard-boiled eggs and mealworms. Fresh water and grit should always be available.
Galapagos doves are undoubtedly the most fascinating of the entire Zenaida genus. For a wild, foreign dove, they are remarkably tame (despite intense human predation). Wild-caught specimens tame easily and breed freely under the right conditions. Galapagos doves are the busybodies of the dove world. Anything new in the aviary, whether it is food or dropped keys, will be thoroughly investigated, prodded, poked and examined. This species is very entertaining and wonderfully comical. For a true clown of the dove family, the blocky Galapagos Island dove is the one!
If you have a question for Tony Brancato, send him an e-mail care of BIRD BREEDER at firstname.lastname@example.org. We regret that columnists are not able to respond to letters individually.
Tony Brancato has bred doves and pigeons for 35 years. He currently breeds 25 species of seed-eating foreign doves. Brancato lives on the Central Coast of California.