Answers to Questions We Are Often Asked

Here we answer frequently asked questions, because people usually ask us the same types of questions when we attend events with our doves.

Are they pigeons or doves?
Heavenly Doves breed and train white rock doves, also known as homing pigeons (Columba livia). These are the only type of doves that should be released at outdoor functions.

How are the doves released?
It differs slightly depending on the actual event, but usually at the end of the event the doves are gently given to those who want to release them by hand or their box or cage is opened and the doves are liberated.
If you want to hold the doves we take a moment to make sure you and the dove are comfortable and we also make sure those with cameras are ready for the photo. All you need to tell us is the date, time and location you want the doves released and we take care of the rest.
If the doves are being displayed at an event, someone from Heavenly Doves is always close by to make sure the doves are safe and to answer any questions that people have.

Where do they go after they are released?
We take a lot of time to train the doves to follow their natural instinct which is to fly back to where they were born ie. our lofts

How are they trained ?
From as soon as our little birds learn to fly in a flock, we take them for training flights. We start off releasing them close to home and gradually increase the distance that they are released, until they can return from at least 30-50km away. Our philosophy for our doves is that if they have a good diet and follow a good exercise program, when displayed and released at events, they will perform how they are supposed to (ie. figure out where they are and fly home as quickly as possible after being released). Also we always check for any illnesses and never take birds out that are sick or recovering from an illness.

How do they know how to fly home?
The instinct of the homing pigeon is legendary - but how it works has never been conclusively proven.
Scientists have conducted experiments to figure out this mystery and they guess that birds have an internal bird-sized version of a "satellite-navigation device" in their brain. This works in combination with highly sensitive vision, smell and hearing.
If trained and exercised from a young age, homing pigeons have the ability to find "home" from places they have never been before, even if they are 100s of kilometres away.

How far can they fly?
Racing pigeons can fly thousands of kilometres. Birds bred at our lofts have come home from about 300km but we don't like to take our doves more than about 100km away (which means anywhere in the Sydney Metropolitan area).

Will they make a mess on me?
Our doves are cleaned and groomed to perfection before we take them out on the town. If you are worried about droppings, you don't have to hold the doves - simply release them directly from the cage. If you don't mind holding the doves before releasing them, we show you how to hold them so that any droppings will fall onto the ground and not your clothes. In our experience, the doves will almost never make a mess while being held, anyway.

Can children hold the doves and release them?
Older children can. Younger children (up to age 10) can only if an adult helps them.

Why can't people go out and buy some white doves from a pet shop and release them?
Some people think they are saving money buy purchasing rigneck doves from petshops. Releasing ringneck doves is cruel because they don't have any homing instinct. They are domestic animals that are accustomed to being supplied with food and water and they would then have to fend for themselves. Ringneck doves are also easy prey for cats and dogs because most have lost the ability to protect themselves from predators.
If you hire or purchase white homing pigeons to release, be sure to ask if they will fly home otherwise the same situation applies. White homing pigeons not trained properly to fly home usually go and join the population of feral pigeons that roost in parks and buildings around the city and make lots of mess, if they manage to survive outside captivity.
Also if you are purchasing birds from a backyard breeder or pet shop, you can't be sure that they don't carry lice, worms or other diseases. The birds in Heavenly Doves lofts are regularly vet checked and medicated for common bird diseases. 

So even if you don't hire Heavenly Doves, be sure to ask questions to make sure that the doves you use are from a reputable "white dove releaser".

Can they be released inside?
For inside events we can use tame fantail doves. These can be displayed in our decorative cages at an indoor or evening event.
If you want our fantail doves to fly out from near a wedding cake you need permission from a representative of the reception venue.

People sometimes like to have fantails (also called dancing doves) on the floor as they are doing their bridal waltz. We can also arrange this with permission from the reception venue, but the doves can only be let out while the bride and groom are dancing. When other guests start to dance, we put the fantails back in their cage to minimise any risks of them getting stressed. Heavenly Doves staff will always be present while doves are out of their cages at an indoor event and if we decide that the birds are not happy we will replace them in their cage.

What if it rains?
We are always concerned about the welfare of our birds so if we decide that the weather is not good for a dove release (too windy, hot or rainy) we will substitute them for another service if possible or refund in full all money paid.


General Questions about Pigeons and Doves

How do doves sound?
Most doves and pigeons make a "coo" sound. The actual sound differs depending on which of the approx 300 species of dove that you are listening to.

Ringneck doves sound like someone laughing, Peruvian Ground Doves sound like croaking frogs, Black-Wing Ground doves chirp like birds.

What do doves eat?
Domestic pigeons and doves usually feed on a mix of grains including wheat, milo, safflower, corn, peas, barley etc.

They also occasionally like to eat green vegetables such as spinach or broccoli. As a treat they like apple, mashed up hard boiled eggs or mealworms.

It is also essential for them to have grit such as crushed egg shells or oyster shells to aid in digestion.

In the wild pigeons and doves, depending on their species will feed on seeds, fruit, grasses or insects.

How can you tell the difference between a male and a female pigeon or dove?
~Question asked by Mary(USA) and Jamie(UK)~

Male and female pigeons differ slightly in their appearance. Male pigeons often have a slightly bigger, rounder head than the female. Females pigeons heads can also be a bit flatter on top. Wild and domesticated doves have their own differences depending on the species. 
Another way to sex pigeons or doves is to watch their behaviour. A male may "crow around". This means he puffs his chest up a little bit and walks around making cooing noises and bobbing his head up and down. Females don't usually exhibit this behaviour.

What is the gestation, parturition and incubation period of a dove?

~Question asked by Emma (UK)~

Gestation (period of time from conception to egg being laid):
approx. 18 days

Parturition (period of time it takes for female to lay the egg):
a young bird would take longer than an older hen but it should take the bird less than 12 hours.

Incubation (period of time from egg laying to hatching):
18-20 days

What do baby doves eat?
Newly hatched doves consume "crop milk". Both parents make this milk for their offspring and regurgitate it into the young bird's mouth.
As the young bird gets older it is gradually weened onto solid bird food (grains and seeds) and starts learning to peck the seed for itself. It takes about 4 to 5 weeks for a bird to learn to fend for itself.

What are the most common species of doves?
The species of doves most often kept by breeders are the ringneck dove, diamond dove and turtle dove.
See The American Dove Association
for specific answers about all the different species of doves.

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