Diamond Doves
Flight Breeding versus Individual Cage Breeding
by John Pire
July 2001

Part 1 – Flight Breeding

This article was first written by me back in May 1987. The article dealt with my experiences, observations and the conclusions of ten years experience in keeping the Diamond Doves in a "Flight Breeding" and "Individual Cage Breeding Situations". I have kept the Diamond Dove for over twenty-five years now and they are still one of my favorite species of exotic doves and pigeons. 

I use these two terms, "flight breeding" and "individual cage breeding", in this and several other articles. The meaning I associate with these two terms are as follows: FLIGHT BREEDING is a situation where more then one pair of the same species of dove are kept in the same flight or aviary for the purpose of propagating them. This situation can also apply to pairs of different species of doves kept in the same flight or aviary. INDIVIDUAL CAGE BREEDING is a situation where only a single pair of doves is kept in a flight or cage for the purpose of propagating them.

What is considered a flight cage, aviary or cage? My interpolations are: a flight or aviary, are "cages" which someone can walk into. A cage is "cage" which someone cannot walk into. I have friends, each having a different type of set-up: one friend in PA keeps her Diamonds in a mixed "aviary" indoors & allows the birds free flight when she is present; another friend in CA utilizes a side of the mountain as one side of the flight. The flight is as large as a football field and houses many different species of doves/pigeons, including 10 to 15 pairs of Diamond Doves; another friend in New Zealand has outdoor flights & allows all her doves "free flight" in her garden and surrounding "bush".

Lets get into the sexing of Diamond Doves. The observations and statements are from personal experiences with Diamonds kept in outdoor and indoor flights/cages. This information should help so that you set-up "true" males and females and not same sex pairs. The Diamond Dove is considered to be a slightly dimorphic species when referring to the wild "blue" Diamond Dove.

I will not delve into the different color mutations now being bred. With the advent of the many colors being bred in the Diamond Dove the body color of the bird is no longer as useful in identifying the sex of the bird. Although there is a color mutation, rarely seen now, which is a true dimorphic color. Meaning that males are one color and the females are another. It is the Dimorphic Cinnamon and was first imported from Canada into the US by Bill Rees of California. The Yellow Diamond also has a bit of color dimorphism between the sexes. Bill can be credited with bringing into the US a number of the new color mutations from Europe or Canada in the 80’s and early 90’s.

The first importation of wild caught Diamond Doves from Australia occurred about 1925. All the birds in the shipment were the wild color or as they were called "Blue Diamond Doves". Sexing was quite easy; hens had much more of a brown coloration across the back & neck area then the males. Two more shipments of Diamond Doves arrived from Australia. These shipment contained the first known color mutation seen in Diamond Doves. About half of the birds in both of the shipments were a "light grey" color. This first color mutation quickly became known as the "Silver Diamond Doves". All of the shipments arrived in Los Angeles, CA. The first shipment was said to contain about 100 Diamond Doves, the last two shipments combined contained about 100 birds.

Since importations/arrivals of birds back then were quite different then they are now most of the actual documentation or records of these arrivals were lost. To date (2001) these are the ONLY two known shipments of Diamond Doves directly coming from Australia into the United States. With the ease and willingness of these first "imported" birds to reproduce it was not feasible to bring them into the US any more.

Yes, there were further shipments of Diamond Doves into the U.S., but these originated in Europe and Canada and eventually the color mutations made it to the US. Many of the newer color mutations being developed in Europe were brought into Canada by the renowned dove fancier Don Adams, who shared these beautiful new colors with other Diamond Dove fanciers. Another fancier, Garrie Landry imported several of the color mutations into the US and propagated them. Perry Candianides is credited with developing the Yellow Whitetail Diamond.

Sexing Diamond Doves consists of simple observations and comparisons of the "eye ceres". This is the bare skin surrounding the eye of the bird. There are exceptions to these "rules". Conditions, feed, surroundings, etc can all be factors in the growth and physical appearance of the bird and thus may not follow these observations. 

Trying to determine the sex of the birds is best when they have attained at least 6 months of age or have gone through the juvenile to pre-adult plumage molt. Between 6 and 12 months of age is when the male’s cere begins to enlarge. Remember outside factors, as stated above, may affect this cere development.

Click on this link to view pictures of the "eye ceres".

Most mature adult male Diamond Doves will have larger, fleshier looking and many times a brighter colored eye cere then the adult female Diamond. Females with large brightly colored ceres do occur, as do males with small dull colored ceres. The coloration of the eye cere cannot always be accurate for sexing males from females. The cere coloration can vary greatly from one bird to the next regardless of sex. These facets can be due to breeding linage or even outside factors as stated above. A male DD kept indoors, with full spectrum lighting and everything else the bird needs when kept indoors, for a year will have a different looking eye cere then a male kept in an outdoor flight with access to the direct sunlight etc., whether they be from the same parents or not. Older male and female Diamonds do sometimes grow quite enlarged eye ceres. These enlarged ceres can become infected.

The "flight cage" or "aviary" can be of any size which suits your tastes and available space. One thing I have learned, build the flights to your needs to facilitate cleaning or any other chore you may need to do within the confines of the flight. The birds will adapt to what you supply them to live in.

I often tell fanciers who build outdoor flights to cover the tops of the flights. This keeps wild birds from perching on the open tops and leaving their dropping inside your flights & thus exposing your birds to many diseases the wild birds may carry. Also, doves have a "predator instinct" in which they fly straight upwards with great force. If the tops are not covered the "wire" may become invisible when the birds take "flight" in this instinctual behavior. The birds can be severely injured and death can also occur from broken necks in these headlong flights.

All my outdoor flights are made from treated lumber and covered with ½" hardware cloth wire. This size keeps a great many varmints out of the flights. If I build any more flights I will utilize the ¼" hardware cloth wire instead of the ½" size. Mice and small snakes can go through the ½" wire.

Utilize many different sizes for the perches within the flight. Make sure the perches are firmly secured and that none are directly over any feed or water containers. Perches can be wood dowels, thick ropes (doves do not utilize the rope perches much but any finches in the flight will), branches, ripped lumber of varying sizes. Even homemade wooden platforms can be used. Rough perches are much better then smooth or slick perches.

If several pairs of birds are to be housed in the flight it is a good idea to supply a couple of feed and water containers, with each being in a different location. This cuts down on the chances of a dominant bird or pair from keeping other pairs or young from obtaining feed and water.

Diamond Doves will utilize most any type of container for laying their clutch of eggs and raising their young. They do prefer to use open top containers. I have used such things as: tea strainers, plastic and wicker Canary nests, clean tuna or cat food cans, the typical hanging seed cups, homemade wire baskets or wooden platforms, even the removable bottoms of the 2 liter soda water bottles. The Diamonds have also used 6" wicker baskets for the larger doves in the flight. One pair, in my planted flight, even built the typical "dove" nest of a few twigs in the privet bush and raised their family.

It is best to provide at least two containers for each pair of birds in the flight. This cuts down on interference and gives the pair a second nest in which to begin the next clutch while the previous young are still in the old nest. There is not a height preference; each pair will pick a suitable area and defend their territory from others. Place the containers are different heights and areas of the flight. Ensure that all nest containers are securely attached and that they remain level during the nesting process. The wicker type Canary nests do not have very good wire hangers and soon begin to sag under the weight of the nesting birds. Providing some sort of support under these types of nests is advisable. Click on this link to see my "nest supports"

Supplying the Diamond Doves with nesting materials is simple; many items can be used. Soft dried grasses, hay, straw, soft pine needles (white pine needles are ideal for the Diamonds), small pliable twigs etc., can be given in sizable amounts where all the nesting pairs can select what they feel is needed. Not all birds will make the ideal nest, some will use too much material and others will only use a few pieces.

I utilize the Flight Breeding system on several of my Diamond Dove pairs. I feel the flight situation is beneficial to them. They have flight room to exercise. I like to see several pair interacting as they might do in the wild. It is a wonderful sight to see a pair raising their family or sunning themselves in the sunlight. One thing I do advocate is the removal of the young Diamonds when they are on their own. If left in the flight they soon mature and can cause interference with the established pairs.

I promote this system for those fanciers who are not concerned with developing a color mutation or needing to keep accurate records on the birds. I have listed my pros & cons of this system below.

PROS: plenty of flight room for strong bird; less cleaning time for the fancier; watching the interactions of a Diamond pair and their offspring; watch the beautiful courtship displays of the males; many times the young males can be sexed before they finish the "ten week" molt. The young males tend to show or try their breeding prowess with other young or their parents.

CONS: there is no control over which male breeds which hen. Yes, females will allow another male to breed them in this type of breeding system. Many times the bonded pair male will not allow this male to share incubation or rearing of the chicks, but the hen may accept this different male’s advances while she is off the nest duties. If a new color mutation appears there is no way to accurately say which birds are responsible. Multiple eggs are laid in the same nest, thus causing the different pairs to fight over the right to set the eggs. Eggs or young can be knocked from the nest in such fighting. The possibility of two eggs remaining in such chosen sites and hatching is compromised. Eggs can be abandoned after a pair is chased from the chosen nest site. Hatchlings can be trampled by adult birds squabbling over the nest.

In closing this article, adapt the basics found here to your personal situation in your quest to propagate these beautiful doves. Part two of the article discusses the Individual Cage Breeding experiences with Diamond Doves.

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