Doves may not be as common of a household pet as other avian species like parrots, but that doesn’t mean they don’t make fantastic companions. They can be very docile and affectionate and can easily warm up to humans, especially if they’re hand-fed.
If you’re considering adopting a bird and a dove is on the top of your mind, you’re probably curious about what to expect regarding lifespan. It’s not a secret that pet birds can live exceptionally long. You’ve probably heard about birds like macaws living an average of 50 years. While the lifespan of a pet dove is nowhere near that, they can still live very long lives. Keep reading to learn everything you’ve wanted to know about the lifespan of a pet dove.
What’s the Average Lifespan of a Dove?
The average lifespan of a dove depends on the species. Mourning doves, a wild species, typically live just for 1.5 years, though the oldest known mourning dove lived to be at least 30 years old.
Domesticated species like ring-necked doves and diamond doves can live up to 15 to 25 years in captivity. However, like other pet birds, doves have specific care requirements that can dictate their lifespan. All current and prospective bird owners need to familiarize themselves with the unique care needs of their pets to ensure they can live their lives to the fullest extent.
How to Tell Your Dove’s Age
The only way to know the exact age of your bird is with a hatch certification and a leg band. Unfortunately, if you adopted a bird without these, you may never know how old it is. That said, there are some ways you can guess the age based on how your bird looks.
Older birds may have cracks in their feet and claw irregularities, while their younger counterparts have smoother claws and scale-less feet.
As with humans, younger birds have higher energy levels and are more playful than their senior counterparts.
Why Do Some Doves Live Longer Than Others?
As with humans, a dove’s nutrition can dictate how long it lives. A domesticated dove’s nutrition will differ significantly from a dove that lives in the wild. Wild doves feed primarily on seeds and greens.
On the other hand, a pet dove relies on their owner to provide them with the diet they need to thrive. They’ll need pellets, seeds, plenty of greens, and soft fruit. Many new bird owners believe their pet needs just seeds since that’s primarily what their wild counterparts eat. The problem is that seed mixes are deficient in nutrients and high in fat and aren’t the same seeds that wild doves would eat.
Pellets are an excellent pick for any domesticated bird as they meet the nutritional needs of a captive bird.
2. Environment and Conditions
Another factor determining how long a dove lives is the environment and conditions it finds itself in.
Wild doves can be found throughout much of the world. They’re flexible regarding their habitat, happily calling open grasslands, plains, shrublands, and semi-urban areas home.
Wild doves typically die from predation, disease, or starvation.
Pet doves are obviously at an advantage here as they don’t need to worry about starving or becoming lunch for predators. However, homes with multiple pet species must take extra precautions to protect their dove from becoming dinner.
3. Living Quarters
Wild doves make their nests in dense foliage on a tree branch, though they sometimes make nests on the ground, gutters, or abandoned equipment. Because of the poor quality of their nests, many die due to nest failure.
Your pet dove’s cage plays a vital role in its overall health and lifespan. Doves cannot climb up cage bars like many other birds can. Instead, they move about their cage by flying. Their cage needs plenty of space for flying. If it’s too narrow, your bird could hurt itself. Some species, like the diamond dove, spend much of their day on the ground, so their cage should have space for them to walk around.
Since pet birds spend most of their time on their feet, perches are essential to promote good foot health. Birds can develop pressure points on the bottoms of their feet from standing on perches of the same diameter all the time. This can lead to pressure sores, infections, and deep, difficult-to-treat lesions.
Like other domesticated birds, pet doves need exposure to ultraviolet light to absorb dietary calcium. However, unlike their wild counterparts, pet birds will not get the UV they need unless UV lighting is provided. UV is filtered out by the glass in windows, so putting them next to a window isn’t good enough.
A bird’s lifespan may be directly related to its size. Birds fed diets too high in fat can become obese and may be at risk for certain health conditions. Overweight birds can develop atherosclerosis or hepatic lipidosis, making them more susceptible to heart attacks and strokes. Obese birds can even die from the stress of being examined at the vet’s office.
Female mammals often outlive their male counterparts. But, for birds, the opposite is true. Recent studies suggest that having two copies of the same sex chromosome could mean a longer lifespan. The working theory is that the second copy of the chromosome offers some protective effect. If this hypothesis is true, it makes sense as male birds have two Z chromosomes while females have one W and one Z.
Nearly all doves, regardless of whether they’re wild or domesticated, harbor the organism that causes canker. Canker is a respiratory disease that begins with throat swelling and an accumulation of necrotic material in the mouth. It happens most often in young birds and is most often fatal.
The 5 Life Stages of a Pet Dove
1. Embryonic Stage
Fertilized clutches contain two eggs. Approximately one week after mating, the female will lay her eggs. The female and male take turns incubating the eggs for around 14 days until the young hatch.
A dove becomes a hatchling the moment it emerges from its egg. It is fed by its parents what is known as “crop milk.” Crop milk is a secretion from the lining of the crop of parent birds. It gets regurgitated to the young.
Nestlings are doves that remain in the nest until they’re ready to fly. Most young doves will leave the nest within ten to 14 days, at which point they’re known as fledglings. Despite leaving the nest, baby doves often remain close to their parents for up to a month.
Juvenile doves are still quite young and not yet capable of breeding. However, some species, like the ring-necked dove, will be ready to breed by the time it is 12 months (or even earlier).
5. Mature Adult
Many wild doves do not make it to adulthood at all. For example, the mourning dove is a prolific breeder because mortality is high.
Pet doves have long lifespans, especially when compared to their wild cousins. The length of their life can vary depending on many factors, many of which are out of your control. The best thing you can do as an owner is to ensure you’re doing all you can to provide your pet with the absolute best care. This includes finding a nearby avian vet you can trust and committing to annual wellness checks to keep tabs on your bird’s health.
Featured Image Credit: Capri23auto, Pixabay