If you plan on breeding your ringneck doves or if you just want to give them gender-appropriate names, figuring out who's male or female isn't an easy task. Unlike some birds, the male and female ringneck dove look exactly alike. Some breeders claim even the doves can't always tell which is which.
The most common pet dove species, ringneck doves are found only in captivity. Any free-ranging members of this species are feral, not wild, doves. These, or their immediate ancestors, escaped from cages or aviaries. At maturity, ringneck doves are about 1 foot long whether male or female. They're not the easiest birds to tame, as they prefer members of their own species to humans. Well-cared-for ringneck doves can keep you company for 12 to 15 years.
Pelvic Bone Testing
You can attempt sexing your doves via pelvic bone testing. Hold the bird upright, running your finger between its legs to its vent -- the bird's elimination hole. A male dove's pelvic bones should almost touch each other at the top, feeling stiff and pointed. The female dove's pelvic bones should feel curvy and flexible, rounding at the top. In females, your finger should come close to fitting in between the ends of the bones. You've got a pretty good chance of figuring out the gender by this method, but it's not 100 percent accurate.
If you've sexed them correctly and put a male and female dove together, they can start breeding between the ages of 9 to 12 months. However, it can take up to a few months for the breeding cycle to begin, so you might not know whether you have an opposite-sex or same-sex pair in the cage. If you have a breeding pair, you'll see the male doing his best to impress his potential girlfriend. He'll do a lot of cooing, along with bow cooing, which is bowing to his beloved and cooing at the same time. If the female appears interested, the pair will copulate. This scenario repeats itself until she lays eggs, about a week later.
If you pair two same-sex doves by accident, sooner or later you'll figure out no chicks are in the offing. If you have two males, no eggs will ever appear in your cage. However, females will eventually lay eggs whether or not a male is present. If you've paired two females, these eggs can't be fertilized, so they won't hatch. If you never see breeding behavior -- the cooing and bowing -- between the birds, suspect that the eggs don't contain chicks. On the other hand, you never know with ringneck doves. If the eggs are going to hatch, the chicks will appear within two weeks, give or take a day or so.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.