Guest Author - Malika Harricharan
Hope everyone had a good Valentine's Day! Speaking of Valentine's and romance, I wanted to provide some information on Doves and their mating traditions. Dove couples remain together for life unless they are separated by events beyond their control. The are so devoted to each other they will defend each other by an means including sacrificing their own life to protect their mate. The take great care of each other. For example, if one has been involved in a struggle or is ill the other will preen their feathers for them, a sign of affection.
The mating process begins with the male displaying much bowing and cooing to "woo" the female. This usually lasts a day or two. Then they begin preening each other. Next is the "billing" ritual where doves nibble each other's bill. This is the last step before mating.
During mating the female will crouch down and the male will land on her back. The fertilization process is not long, lasting only seconds. Often the male and female will acknowledge a successful fertilization by a short giggle afterwards.
Dove couples show great affection and loyalty to one another even when one treats the other badly. I have read several studies where a female was offered the choice of companionship with her current mate who pushes her away and chases her out of the nest or a newer much nicer mate. She would never be disloyal to her partner and would go back to the original mate. It is almost impossible to separate mates once they have bonded.
Another interesting fact about Doves is that not only are they caring and affectionate to their own mates, but they care for each other in captivity as well, even when they are complete strangers. Other species may attack and even kill an ailing bird in captivity.
Losing a mate is very traumatic for Doves. Some will pull out all of their feathers, refuse to eat, etc until they find another mate to their liking. Some will refuse to move at all and need a lot of care. They need a lot of attention at this point. It is great to hold them and pet them.