Doves and pigeons are actually the same species: the terms are used interchangeably to describe the birds of the Columbidae family. The physical features of doves are a small, round head with a slim beak and short neck; a stout, rounded body with soft feathers; scaly, short legs and tapered wings. Doves and pigeons are also characterized by the cooing call that they make .
According to the American Dove Association, around 300 species of doves live throughout all regions of the world. Non-domesticated doves are called "wild" or "exotic" and include species such as the Cape dove, mourning dove, passenger pigeon, pheasant pigeon and zebra dove. There are two species which are considered to be domesticated: the ringneck dove and the diamond dove. Most people associate doves with the white dove used as the symbol of peace, which is actually a variety of Ringneck dove rather than a distinct species.
To legally keep doves as pets, permits are required under Federal Law which are issue through the Fish and Game Department. Doves and pigeons caught from the wild should not be turned into pets; domesticated or semi-domesticated birds should be obtained from a breeder. Since doves are wild birds, they are best kept in the largest-sized aviary possible rather than confined to a small cage. The aviary should be in a sheltered, well-insulated but draft-free location which has sun on it during parts of the day. Earth, pebble or cement floors are appropriate for dove-keeping aviaries.
Doves are predominantly seed-eaters and the best thing to feed them is cockatiel, wild-bird or finch seed mix. For additional nutrition, a semi-soft variety of dog food that has been run through a food-processor should also be added to the seed mix daily. Mealworms, vegetables, mashed boiled egg, grated cheese, cooked rice, peanut butter and pieces of apple can also be given as an occasional treat. A combination of brewer's yeast and cod liver oil added to the seed once every week will also ensure that the birds are receiving adequate vitamins.
Disease and Ailments
Watering droppings, wheezing, eye or nasal discharge, missing feathers, a fluffed-up or languid appearance are all indications that a dove is ill. If any of these symptoms are present, the sick bird should be isolated, handfed and taken to an avian veterinarian as soon as possible. Diseases common to dove species include salmonella, trichomiasis, coccidiosis, diarrhea, pneumonia, calcium deficiency and worms. Lice, mites and other parasites may also infect doves, with wild birds or new birds to the flock being the common transmitters.