Friday, February 11, 2011

Zebra Dove Courting

The Zebra Doves that visit our driveway often participate in courting activity, walk-chasing each other, and “bow coo-ing.” The coo-er chases, and the coo-ee walks away.
Which … got me curious. To my eyes, both male and female Zebra Doves are identical. So how do male doves know they’re bow-cooing to a female dove and not another male?
As it turns out, there’s a 10-point checklist that one can use to determine the sex of a Zebra Dove:
1.  Iris - the male dove iris rings are smaller and lighter than female
2.  Plumage coloration - feather color is also different. Male heads have lighter feathers (light grayish compared to the female’ brownish cast).
3.  Physical Size - males are usually larger.
4.  Voice - Males are usually much more vocal. Females have a higher pitched voice.
5.  Bow Coo - Males will do bow coos; females almost never bow-coo.
6.  Male bird legs are thicker and longer.
7.  Females have a wider space pubic bone than males.
8.  Male doves have a broad chest.
9.  Male dove have a bigger, broad head; females have smaller, rounder heads.
10.  Male doves are aggressive towards other males .
Now … my question is, does the male Zebra Dove carry the 10-point checklist inside his tiny little brain, and when he’s in a courting mood, does he look back and forth between his list and his potential paramour, silently ticking off the points one by one?
Just imagine his silent conversation with himself: How’s its iris. Smaller than mine? Yep. How ‘bout the feathers – lighter on top than mine? Yep. I’m bigger, so that’s good. Not much cooing, so it looks like it’s a girl. Lemme bow-coo. Was there a return bow-coo? Nope. Good. Hey, my legs are thicker and longer. Most definitely looking like a girl …
Oh lawdie, help me.


Anonymous said...

My mom claims that the bird she raised (Zebra Dove) was a male but I'm looking at an old photo with a young him in it. It's not really a clear photo and he looks like he could be a teenager in this picture but I don't know. His iris seems like a females and his head doesn't seem like the bird in the picture you have one your website. So I was wondering if you could maybe somehow identify a bird when they are in a somewhat prepubescent age? She said that the coloring on his chest is what gave him away. She says that the males have a more peachy colored test, and the females have a more grey colored chest. I did a small research trip online and I really saw no difference. Perhaps you could help me out here?

Craig Miyamoto said...

Sorry, mystery commenter. I'm no help either. BTW, the wife asked me why I was peering so closely at a zebra dove today. I told her I was trying to see if it had a pink or gray breast. She gave me a snarky look, turned on her heels, and walked away shaking her head.