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Zebra doves: an appreciation

Zebra finch (Columba striata)
Zebra finch (Geopelia striata)

Zebra doves (Geopelia striata) are small ground doves found throughout South East Asia.  They are commonly seen in parks and gardens where they walk about with a slow and purposeful manner, looking for food or feeding on grass seed.  They are an attractive bird with a soft cooing call, and are frequently kept as pets in some countries, such as Thailand.  They derive their name from the fine black and white barring on sides of the neck and down the breast.  The centre of the breast is an attractive pinkish/mauve colour, which is reportedly pinker and narrower in the female (1);  otherwise the sexes are similar.

Zebra finch (Geopelia striata) showing narrow pink strip on the breast
Zebra finch (Geopelia striata) showing narrow pink strip on the breast

I have come to greatly  appreciate the beauty of the plumage of these doves which is subtle and delicate.  For example, the blue eyes are ringed with a circle of pale yellow, whilst the base of the beak is a lovely pale blue.

Zebra finck (Geopelia striata)
Zebra finck (Geopelia striata)

Nests are made in trees and two eggs are typically laid – although three chicks were observed in a next in Singapore (2) – and incubated by both sexes for about two weeks.  The young leave the nest after a further two weeks or so, but according to my observations stay close to the parents and frequently beg to be fed.  The juveniles lack the blue and yellow coloration seen on the heads of the adults (see below).

Juvenile Zebra finch (Geopelia striata)
Juvenile Zebra finch (Geopelia striata)

On one occasion, I noticed a small group of three juvenile Zebra doves resting in the late afternoon sunshine with all of their feathers fluffed up (see below).  Presumably this behaviour is to drive out any parasites from their plumage, and shows to what extent the birds are able to erect all of their feathers, giving them a rather ugly appearance, not at all like their usual sleek appearance!

Juvenile Zebra (Geopelia striata) doves 'sun-bathing'
Juvenile Zebra (Geopelia striata) doves ‘sun-bathing’

1) http://www.hbw.com/species/zebra-dove-geopelia-striata

2) http://rmbr.nus.edu.sg/dna/docs/75472c4637b7fe1ef2b2509a4419bf2e.pdf

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rcannon992 View All

I am a retired entomologist with a background in quarantine pests and invasive invertebrates. I studied zoology at Imperial College (University of London) and did a PhD on the population dynamics of a cereal aphid (Metopolophium dirhodum) in the UK. I spent 5 years with the British Antarctic Survey studing cold hardiness of Antarctic invertebates and 17 years with the Food and Environment Research Agency. My main interests now are natural history, photography, painting and bird watching.

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