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The Ground Doves

Old World ground-doves comprise a group of about 26 doves mainly in the genus Gallicolumba.

By Robert Alison, Ph.D

white-bibbed ground dove
One of the most common ground-doves in aviculture is the white-bibbed ground-dove (G. jobiensis), native to Papua-New Guinea, the Bismark Archipelago, Jobi, Vulcan and some of the Solomons (notably Guadalcanal).

Old World ground-doves (also known as quail-doves) comprise a group of about 26 long-legged, plump-bodied, almost partridge-like doves, mainly in the genus Gallicolumba. Several species are popular in aviculture, primarily owing to their striking plumage coloration and easy care.

Typical ground-doves have compact bodies, short tails and mostly-bare legs. Many species are sexually dichromatic, the female plumage often being duller than the males.

In The Wild
Of all the larger doves, this group has a higher proportion of species that have either already become extinct — four species have gone extinct — or whose numbers are very low. Remedial conservation initiatives are severely hampered for lack of ecological information, since most species have been inadequately researched. Population sizes are usually uncertain, as are population trends. Habitat loss, hunting and invasive species are known to be having a huge impact on some populations.

In many areas where ground-doves occur, forest clearing has quadrupled in the last 40 years, and many of the tropical lowland and montane forests have almost vanished. Studies on the Solomon Islands show large areas of natural forest have been severely logged.

One of the most common ground-doves in aviculture is the white-bibbed ground-dove (G. jobiensis), native to Papua-New Guinea, the Bismark Archipelago, Jobi, Vulcan and some of the Solomons (notably Guadalcanal). There are two subspecies: G.j.jobiensis and G.j.chalconota, though the latter is suspected of being extinct.

Close relatives of the white-bibbed ground-dove include the Truk Island ground-dove (G. kubargi) and white-throated ground-dove (G. xanthonura). Wild hybridization between white-bibbed and white-throated ground-doves has been confirmed.

Many of the ground-doves that are most closely related to the white-bibbed ground-dove share rich purplish iridescence on the back plumage.

In addition to the white-bibbed ground dove, the Sulawesi ground-dove (G. tristigmata), cinnamon ground-dove (G. rufigula) and others are mainly in the Papua-New Guinea area. Common ancestry of these species has been confirmed.

Behavioral Characteristics 
Most ground-doves forage for food exclusively on the ground. The main diet comprises fruit, seeds, leaves and flowers, but sometimes insects are eaten as well.

Typical behavior includes stereotyped bowing and exaggerated threat postures in which the far wing is raised whereas the near wing is used to slap out at opponents.

Sunning is a very common activity and ground-doves often lie on the ground slightly on one side, often with the wings and tail spread. Sun-bathing occurs daily if the opportunity presents itself and is regularly observed in captivity.

Ground-doves are closely related to the bleeding hearts.

Aviculture Hints

1) In captivity, two eggs are incubated about 17 days. The young fledge in 2 to 3 weeks, but remain near the parents for an additional 2 to 3 weeks.

2) Some parents can be aggressive toward their own older offspring, especially in smaller enclosures.

3) In captivity, these doves prefer to nest in colonies; nests are flimsy structures, usually constructed in shrubs or smaller trees, but if these are not available, they will nest on platforms.

4) These doves breed prolifically when housed in large planted aviaries, and they are sometimes prominent residents of public walk-through aviaries.

5) The captive diet includes high-sugar pellets in addition to fresh and frozen fruit.

6) Whereas these are primarily ground-living birds, in captivity, some individuals spend much time perching off the ground.

7) Ground-doves get along harmoniously with most other species of pigeons and doves, and most other smaller aviary birds.


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