How to Tell Between Male & Female Doves

By Jodi Thornton O'Connell

Doves make mellow pets that are easily hand tamed and trained. Ringneck doves and diamond doves are the most common breeds sold as pets and telling the difference between juvenile males and females is impossible without a DNA test. Once your doves become sexually mature at about 6 months old, you'll be able to tell the difference between males and females with careful observation.

Pair Them Up

The most foolproof way to tell between male and female doves is to put two in each cage. The method takes from a few weeks to a few months and is most easily done in springtime when warming weather intrigues doves to breed. Provide a nesting box to each pair, which can be as simple as a plastic bowl with a handful of straw. Each female dove will lay two eggs, so if you find four eggs in your nest be assured both are female. No eggs after several months means both are males, and two eggs signal one male and one female.

Check Out Their Physique

Female doves are slightly smaller than males in most breeds and usually weigh about 20 percent less than males. The female is easily distinguishable by her slender build with a graceful head set on a slender neck. By contrast, the male is broader in the chest with a thick neck and a more pronounced nostril cere on his beak. His head has a more rounded profile from the side where the female's is slightly flattened.

Watch the Dance of Love

Watching a pair of courting doves leaves little doubt about who is the male. He typically approaches the female with mincing steps punctuated by head bobs and elaborate cooing. He puffs his feathers and arches his neck as he drags his wings and parades in front of her. If she is receptive, the female drags her tail on the ground and approaches a few steps toward him crouching close to the ground in preparation for mating. The male mounts her from behind to consummate the mating.

Feel Their Bones

There are several scientific methods to tell whether a dove is male or female. If you turn the dove on its back and gently feel the pelvic bones between its legs, a male's are usually pointed and rigid where a female's bones feel rounded and flexible to allow for egg laying. Examining a bird's vent beneath their tail is another fairly reliable method, but this should only be performed by an experienced handler as it's easy to injure the bird. The most reliable method, however, is to take your bird to the veterinarian for a DNA test.