The most beautiful birds in the avian world are the Fruit Doves and Pigeons, with their bright pink, yellow,
green, purple and most any color that you can name. They will compete with any of your psittacines for
color and they don’t eat up your plants or aviaries.
A few birds were kept in a very few aviaries throughout the United States for many years but they were never
plentiful. They were considered too difficult. This is not so. In 1984 Don Wells and I went to Jakarta,
Indonesia to find Pheasant Pigeons. While there we saw a number of Fruit Doves that I had never seen
before. We found the Pheasant Pigeons we were looking for and also a number of Fruit Doves. I purchased
them there and then I didn't even have an Import Permit for them. When we returned home I obtained the
necessary permits and made arrangements to have them shipped. About now it hit me that I knew nothing
about Fruit Doves, nothing about their care, feed, housing or anything about how to keep them alive.
Calling around to many of the old time aviculturists I was soon told that the reason that I had seen so few was
that they were difficult to keep, had a short life expectancy and seldom nested successfully. They told me
that feeding was not difficult - just feed them soaked dog food. This just didn't seem right. They are fruit
doves not dog birds.
Most Fruit Doves are in the family Ptilinopus. They live in the tree tops, not on the ground. To me, high
protein was not part of what they needed. We worked up a diet with very little added protein, other than what
they received from the fruit. This is what we finally came up with:
All fruit is cut up in small pieces - about 3/8 in. cubes - not ground up or finely cut up. We use equal parts of
apples, pears, melons (cantaloupe or other melon of this type - not watermelon), papayas, cooked carrots
(good for color), cooked yams or sweet potatoes, or any fruit that can be cut up. We add two parts raisins
(soaked overnight), one and one-half parts cooked brown rice (drained dry), and ½ part “Moist and Meaty”
dog food. We add a small amount of vitamins to this mix. This seems like a lot but really you need to use
5 parts of fruit and vegetables
1 ½ parts brown rice
2 parts raisins
½ part Moist and Meaty
We do not use any citrus. Any fruit in season can and should be used. Use only fresh fruit, not canned.
The size and number of birds should determine the amount to feed. Do not keep fruit not eaten each day. I
try to feed about two to three hours before sunset. This way they can feed in the evening and the first thing
in the morning. No feed should be left over after 10:00a.m. when the weather is hot. A little common sense
will tell you about your feeding schedule. Food tends to dry out in hot weather. Dispose of uneaten food.
Fruit will spoil and we all know that spoiled fruit is a great source of salmonella. All fruit bowls should be
washed and cleaned every day. This may seem like a lot of work but let me assure you that every second is
As to breeding Fruit Doves and Pigeons, most are not difficult. For me, planted aviaries are best. It doesn't
make any difference on how much work you spend, the plants will be there the next day - not eaten. In a 4 x
6 ft. planted aviary I keep one pair of fruit doves and one pair of seed eating ground doves. There are lots of
tall plants with baskets close to the top and open nest boxes on the back wall. No bird should be kept in an
aviary that does not have at least one solid wall. In larger aviaries (10 x 10 ft. or 10 x 15 ft.) more seed
eating doves can be kept with your fruit doves. Finches and soft bills can safely be kept also. I do not
recommend pheasants, they eat baby doves.
I have kept cuckoo doves, golden hearts, green wings and many other small types of doves with fruit doves.
But just remember that like people, some get along with anyone and some just hate themselves. Watch
them. If there is trouble, separate them. Never introduce new to old established birds.
I have one aviary that is 85 ft. long by 35 ft. wide and about 12 ft. high. In this aviary I have over one
hundred doves and pigeons. There are four fruit trees and other plants growing in it. There is one pair of
Pied Imperials, six or eight Papuan Mountain Pigeons, one pair Orange Bellied Fruit Doves and one pair of
Wompoo Fruit Doves, three pair of Black Nape Fruit Doves, three pair of Nicobars, three Victoria Crown
Pigeons, who knows how many Green Wing Doves, Zebra Doves, Peruvian Ground Doves and other
miscellaneous doves. All seem to get along with very little blood shed.
In the past year I have raised a number of fruit doves and pigeons - Pied Imperials, Green Imperials, Purple-
tailed Imperials, Jambu, Black Nape, Orange Bellied, Yellow Breasted, Pink Neck Ptilinopus and Pink Necked
Green Pigeons (these are Trerons).
Most Ptilinopus are very poor nest builders. I have had them build a nest of their own without enough
material to balance a feather and successfully raise their own. But, if you can put up a basket where they are
working they will most likely use it. Some use very little nesting material. Most like to nest up high. Of the
four species of Fruit Doves and Pigeons I keep today, you can expect the following:
Ptilinopus………………...Lay one egg
Trerons…………………..Lay two eggs
Ducula……………………Lay one egg
Gymnophaps……………Lay one egg
Timing is 12 to 16 days for Ptilinopus and Trerons and approximately 30 days for Duculas and Gymnophaps.
One of the most difficult parts in raising Fruit Doves is leaving them alone. Baby Black Napes leave the nest
at about seven to nine days of age. They are about one fourth the size of their parents. The parents take
their young into the brush or trees and stay very close to them. For this reason never disturb your birds late
in the day. They are apt to separate from the young and not find them in time to cover them through the
All young Ptilinopus that I have raised leave the nest quite young. They only have wing feathers and very
little others. They will chill quite easily. They are very dependent on their parents. There must be a lot of
snakes in Ptilinopus country. Trerons and Imperials seem to stay in the nest until they are more fully
I must state now that where I live we have some of the best weather in the country. With the high of eighty
degrees to low nineties and in winter it always is above freezing. Fruit Doves and Pigeons cannot take
freezing weather - nothing below forty degrees for any length of time.
As for longevity, I have had imported birds live for over twelve years and they were still nesting when ten
years in my aviaries. Good care and food in all birds is the secret to longevity.
When you purchase your fruit doves and pigeons make sure of the sex. Not all doves and pigeons are
dimorphic. Young birds are preferred. Don’t be afraid of imports. If they are healthy, the feathers will grow
in. Black Napes, Orange Bellied, Jambus, Superbs, Pink Necks are fairly easy to breed. I have not had much
luck with Wompoos. Most Imperials are fair breeders..
There are so many, 57 species of Ptilinopus, 23 species of Trerons, 36 species of Ducula, plus a few odds
and ends. I doubt that 20 species have been kept in this country. The excitement of a new species will be
there for years to come.
Try them. It is one of the most rewarding experiences that you will find in the avian world today.
Article by: Lynn Hall
Photo credits: Sheri Hanna
Beautiful Fruit Dove
Pink-headed Fruit Dove
Papuan Mountain Pigeon
Pied Imperial Pigeon
FRUIT DOVES AND PIGEONS FOR EVERYONE