How to Tell Between Male & Female Doves

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

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Doves make mellow pets that are easily hand tamed and trained.
Image Credit: sodapix sodapix/F1online/Getty Images

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Behavior of pet dove species

The most foolproof way to tell between male and female domesticated dove breeds 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.

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Provide a nesting box to each pair, which can be as simple as a plastic bowl with a handful of straw. Many pet dove species build messy nests, so nesting boxes are useful especially in captivity. Each female dove will lay two eggs, so if you find four eggs in your nest both of your doves are female. No eggs after several months means both are males, and two eggs signal one male and one female.

Domesticated dove breeds

Female doves are usually slightly smaller than males in most breeds and usually weigh about 20 percent less than males. The female are usually easy 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.

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Some pet dove species are easier to sex than others. For instance, the diamond dove male female difference is easy to spot, making them dimorphic. Both male and female diamond doves have a red eye-ring, but the male's ring is larger. Ringneck doves, however, are harder to sex and require handling by a qualified professional. Instead, watch the mating ritual because the male will be the one cooing long and loudly.

Dove mating behavior

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.

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Physical characteristics of doves

There are several scientific methods to tell whether a dove is male or female, especially if you have the less obvious ringneck dove. 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 because it's easy to injure the bird. The most reliable method, however, is to take your bird to the veterinarian for a DNA test.

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