Caring for Your New Ringneck Dove
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Ringneck Dove Factoids




Seven years likely.  25 possible.


Hard to stop -- two eggs at a time -- year round


Full-spectrum best


70 to 80o

Biggest Threats

Being out of their cage


Change daily

Ringneck doves earn their name for obvious reasons..

Behavior.  “Peaceful as a dove” correctly describes all members of the Ringneck Dove family.  White doves are the universal symbol of peace.  

Ringneck doves allow you to handle them from day one.  They're incredibly tame.

Incredibly Docile.  Ringneck doves easily rank as the most docile of all birds.  Many birds protect themselves by threatening their owners.  They act as though they intend to bite you.  This makes most people back way off.  

White ringneck dove.  Just came into Aqualand (in a cage) five minutes ago.

Grey version with the ring around his neck.  Came in same cage.  Both very tame.                    

Really Tame.  However, even a total stranger can reach into a cage and pick up a dove.  No high-pitched screeching.  No panicky wing-flapping.  They are completely tame – with no training period necessary at all.


Likes Attention.  Many doves start cooing for attention as soon as you enter your house.  They like human companionship.  Once your ringneck dove adapts to your living area, every time you pass by its cage it will want to come out and hang out with you.

Pecking Order.  You bet doves work out a pecking order.  Doves work best in pairs.  Newcomers are not always welcome.  If you add a new dove to an established “household,”  the new guy will get much unwanted attention from the original inhabitants. The term “snatched bald headed” comes to mind.

Pigeons weigh twice as much as doves.  Pigeons are also called rock doves.

Not Pigeons.  Although doves are related to pigeons and similar in many ways, few people will mistake a dove for a pigeon.  For one thing, doves are quite a bit smaller (four to six ounces).  For another, you rarely find doves living under bridges.  Ringnecks could not survive under bridge conditions.

Seed Eaters.  Doves eat seeds.  They spend a great deal of time in nature walking around looking for seeds.  Unlike the hookbills (keets, parrots, etc.), they do not husk their seeds.  They swallow them whole.  This makes it easier to tell when they need more food.  They leave no trays of empty hulls as keets will.

Dove Foods.  Commercial dove foods are not as readily available as other bird foods.  If you can’t find their food, the best substitute we’ve found is vitamin-fortified parakeet food.  Doves will switch instantly to pelleted foods.

Treats.  Of course doves enjoy a change of pace in their diets.  Keet foods have quite a bit of variety in them, but doves will appreciate different treats – even a little bite of bread or cracker.  Greens, bits of fruit, and other little snacks go down smooth.

Insects.  In the wild, doves come upon and devour an occasional insect.  They like bugs.  In captivity, crickets, mealworms, and dried flies fill the bill.  But their main food is seeds.

Grit.  Because they eat their seeds whole (with the husks on), ringneck doves may need grit.  They use it to grind up their food in their gizzards.  Sprinkle a little bit of grit on their floor or provide a small cup of it -- as opposed to mixing it in their food.  Let them decide how much grit to consume.  Actually, they get along quite well with no grit at all.  However, calcium grit will help put calcium into their system.  Egg-laying females need extra calcium.

Appearance.  Bright eyes and an inquisitive look make the ringneck dove an appealing bird to most people.  They seem to look to their owner for attention.  Doves also quickly bond to their owner and like to follow you around. 

Sexing Ringnecks.  You can easily sex Ringneck Doves.  The males coo like crazy.  Females do not.  

Erica Max, Skywings Aviary, Snohomish, WA, November 19, 2007
Hello, Just wanted to point out that you can't sex Ringneck Doves by which birds coo and which don't. Both sexes coo and make the laughing noise. However, males are the only ones who bow while cooing, as illustrated in some of your pictures.

A:  As Johnny Carson used to say:  "I did not know that."  I'll add your info to my page.  Thanks.  LA

Julie Dale, Morganton, NC, February 3, 2008
Your website is wonderful!  I had read your article on doves, and I had seen where someone had said female doves did not bow when cooing, and they did not do it as often. Well., I have a female white ringneck, and believe me, she coos a lot, and she does bow when she coos. And when she is covered in the morning, she coos when the cover is still on! She also loves to coo to gospel music! She will come to us immediately when we sing it! And, well, she also loves to throw seed as well, and she likes to play with anything she finds amusing, mostly plastic chains, and her "toy"
white dove. Most people say they do not make good pets because they are not very social or playful, this is so not true. My dove plays more than my cockatiel. She even plays with my parakeets. And she loves high places in the house where she can watch us. I just want people to know all these things, so maybe people will think of doves as a pet as much as the rest of the birds, even though they can't talk. They sure can be a wonderful, sweet,and entertaining pet.  Thanks for your time. I hope this is helpful, and adds to your info.     

A:  Thanks for your report.  I'll add it our Ringneck page.  LA

Jeanette Risteau, May 26, 2008
I just read about sexing doves and one of your readers wrote that both males and females laugh and coo, but males bow when they coo.  Both of my doves are female, both coo, both laugh and both bow.  The only way I knew they were both female, is that they both lay eggs.

A:  I'll add your report to my dove page.  LA

LA Pic
White males often lack the ring.  The males coo.

LA Pix
Cooing males puff out their chests and bob up and down like the guy on the left.

Their little bud is a hand-fed nanday conure.  He thinks these big guys are weird.

Jonna Campbell, CFB Aviary, Tulsa, OK, April 24, 2006
On the page where you have some pictures of ringneck doves and what you are calling a handfed nanday is in reality a green cheek conure. It looks nothing like a nanday. Nanday's are green with a Black Head.

A:  Thanks.  "Mea culpa" as the Romans used to say.  LA

Colors.  Ringneck doves come in a variety of colors -- 40 or so.  The different colors will all breed together. 

Cooing.  People also like the cooing sound the males make. The phrase “billing and cooing” comes from the mating activities of this particular group of birds.  They coo to attract their mates.  The cooing sound also seems to attract humans. 

Mating.  Doves prefer to pick their own mates.  However, most are not what you would call picky.  One male plus one female usually results in a breeding pair.

Coffee cans make a very attractive nest for ringneck doves.

And they don't mind sharing the nest and the sitting on the eggs.

Nests.  Since they are such terrible nest builders, many doves will quickly take over their food bowl as a better nest than they could ever build.  If you feed yours from a five-inch ceramic bowl, don’t be surprised to find your female setting on a clutch of eggs in the food bowl.  Some will even lay eggs on the cage floor.  A few randomly placed twigs complete their nuptial suite.

Dove eggs make very tiny omelets.


Sheila Duff, April 25, 2009
Hello, I enjoy your website, thank you. One question regarding doves -- ring necks and whites -- how long after laid do the eggs hatch? Keep up the awesome job.

A:  Their eggs hatch 21 days after a parent begins setting on the eggs.  LA
Sheila Duff, May 4, 2009
Hello, I emailed you and asked how many days do doves nest before their eggs hatch.  Your quick response was 21 days.
I find it confusing that there are so many different people with different days on how long it takes the eggs to hatch. 
Some websites say 21 days, others say 18-19 days, yet others say 14 and even 12 days.
My doves laid one egg 14 days ago which hatched today and the other egg was laid one day later so hopefully it will hatch tomorrow.
Do the different number of days coincide with the type of dove? 
I have a ring neck female, and a pure white male.  They are a super pair and have equally shared the nesting and will most likely equally share the feeding and caring for their young. 
Life is always a beautiful event and with this spring being so late it is a blessed event in my home. 
Thank you for the great website.  It takes a great deal of time to put all the info up and equal time maintaining it as well as answering questions.
Thank you for your dedication to information. Have a wonderful spring.

A:  Probably we should say something like "gestation averages 21 days."  Nature has no written contract.  You have to go with what your own eyeballs observed.  Spring is excellent so far (even if I haven't set my tomatoes out yet).  LA

Hatchlings.  Not all the eggs hatch at the same time, because the female lays them on different days.  The babies are small, poorly feathered, and helpless.  (They are also ugly.)  She is an excellent parent, but not protective at all.  You can lift her up and scope out (or scoop out) the eggs and youngsters without upsetting her much.  Both the female and the male feed the babies.  The babies stay in the nest until they are almost as big as their parents.  This process takes less than six weeks.

Baby Food.  Both parents feed the babies “pigeon milk.”  The parents eat and partially digest their seed diet, then regurgitate it into their kids’ open beaks.  The babies grow quite rapidly on this special diet.  You can assist the parents by giving them extra “nestling foods” at this time.  Any extra nutrition always helps.


Big Cage.  Ringneck doves, because of their wide wing span, prefer a larger cage.  Something in the range of a cockatiel cage works great.  You can house them uncomfortably in a 14x14 cage.  Much better – a 24x24-inch rabbit cage.   They really like bigger cages.  If you keep them in a small cage, they absolutely need an exercise period outside of their cage..

Clean Cages.  Usually a weekly cleaning will handle the situation.  Ringneck doves are not particularly messy -- except for their loose feathers.  Nor do they throw out their seeds for entertainment as much as many small birds do.

Mites.  Cleaning the cage on a regular basis will prevent most pest problems.  Adding one of the “cage protectors” also helps.  It repels them like moth balls.  Maybe that’s why they smell like moth balls?  If your bird does get mites (evidenced by a scaly beak or feet), you can eradicate them easily.  Mites are not much of a problem these days.  Cage spray works.  As does Ivermectin in serious cases.

Cage Cover.  You don’t need a cage cover.  However, it could make your life easier.  If you tire of their cooing, that’s where the cage cover works.  It literally turns your ringneck dove off like a light switch.

Avoid Drafts.  Cool temperatures will not harm your ringneck dove.  Drafts will.  Keep their cage away from open windows on windy days, from furnace and air conditioner outputs, and from fans.  

Too small cages can break their feathers.

Provide Roosts.  Although ringneck doves spend a lot of time walking on their cage floor, they still need roosts.  It always helps to give them a variety of roost sizes.  They cannot climb all over their cage wires like the hookbills do.  And position their roosts far enough away from the cage walls to not “ruffle their feathers.”  Tail feathers, that is.

Clean Roosts.  Use one of the little wire brush roost cleaners on an as-needed basis. Soaking them in a bucket of bleach water also helps.

Exercise Time.  Doves need “outside time.”  They really appreciate flying around on a daily basis.  Doves don’t actually try to escape, they just like to “try their wings” to keep in good shape.  You won’t need to trim their wings like you do on most birds.  Ringneck doves just do not try to escape.

Inside Birds.  Of course, you don’t want your ringneck doves to “try their wings” outside.  They could fly away.  Escapees have a very short memory of where they came from.  Escapees also have little chance of surviving in the wild.  Cats don’t even have to sneak up on them.  Ringnecks are just not afraid of predators.

The Sun.  Like all animals, doves appreciate the sun (or its equivalent).  Naturally, they can’t take full-time exposure to the sun anymore than we can.  If you do build an outside aviary, make sure they get mostly shade in addition to sunning areas.  However, with all the wild bird diseases out there (Nile fever for one), outdoor aviaries are losing their appeal.

Artificial Sun.  Many manufacturers make artificial sun light these days.  These are the exact spectrum of sunlight but not at the same harmful intensity.  They keep the birds healthier and more colorful.

Bathing.  Healthy birds preen their feathers daily.  Many like to take a daily bath.  Doves like a daily misting.  It helps them preen and clean their feathers.   This keeps them sleeker and, of course, cleaner.

Water.  Forget water bottles.  Doves drink from water dishes.  Change their  water daily because they insist on defecating in it.

Molting.  Doves molt (shed old feathers and grow new ones) once a year – in the warm months.  Baby doves usually molt their initial feathers several weeks after birth.

Wild mourning doves -- not like ringnecks -- sit on telephone lines and decorate your car.

Last Words.  Ringneck doves make an easy dove to handle.  All the other doves prefer that you leave them alone.  LA

Jeannine LaPorte, December 16, 2008
Hi, I enjoy your site very much, but I wanted to send you some information or corrections about Ringneck Doves.
One of the reasons Ringneck Doves are so tame is that they have been bred for pets for thousands of years. The Ringneck dove is only found in captivity. If released into the wild they will have little chance of survival. Not to be confused with “white doves” used in releases, which are actually white homing pigeons. (Doves do not ‘home’ like pigeons); or other collared foreign doves like the Eurasian Collared Dove.
Caption under photo of White Ringneck:
White males often lack the ring
Either sex of white dove may lack or have an invisible neck ring. Albino doves will also have no neck rings, and white pied will often lack neck rings. 
Ringneck Doves mate for life.
The hen will lay eggs on different days but not start to incubate them until the second egg is laid. For example, my dove laid her first egg three days before the second one but did not sit on them until both were present. They hatched 24 hours apart – which is unusual, most eggs will hatch within hours of each other. If hatched over 48 hours apart the second hatchling will need to be hand fed, it will have very little chance of competing for food with its older sibling. They do not have feathers when hatched -- they have a sparse fuzzy down. Within 3 or 4 days pin feathers will start to develop (They are not ugly. They are cute!). Some doves are very protective of the nest, eggs, and hatchlings – others are not. My hen is, and I have been wing slapped on many occasions when my hand is too close to the nest. The cock on the other hand is not, and I can scoop him off the nest with ease. They take turns sitting on the eggs and hatchlings, and there does not seem to be a time schedule according to daylight. The parents stop sitting on the nest when the hatchlings are about a week old, and the hatchlings will hop out of the nest around 12 days old. They may return to the nest a few more times over the next few days but will perch with the parents from then on.
Cage Cover.
LOL – I just want to say some doves (like my cock) coo at all hours of the night, regardless if the lights are off and cage is covered! 
I would add that you could mist doves with a spray bottle to give them a bath.
Photos Attached:

Peeps, 12-07-08, Lucky & Truffles 9 & 8 days old

Dove amily: Lucky (16-days old), Edel (hen, 8-years old), Strack (cock, 2-years old) & Truffles (15-days old)

On the way home froim work, July 11, 2011.

A:  Thanks for the info and the pix.  I'll add them to our ringneck dove page.  LA

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