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Laughing Dove
(Streptopelia senegalensis)

Laughing Dove

General description

The laughing dove is a long-tailed, slim member of the pigeon family, usually around 25cm long. It is pinkish brown on the underside with a lilac tinged head and neck. The head and underparts are pinkish, shading to buff on the lower abdomen. A chequered rufous and grey patch is found on the sides of the neck and are made up of split feathers.

The upper parts are brownish with a bluish-grey band along the wing. They have a bluish grey rump and upper tail coverts. The tail is graduated and the outer feathers are tipped in white.

The legs are red.

The populations vary slightly in plumage with those from more arid zones being paler.

The sexes are indistinguishable in the field, but young birds lack the chequered neck markings.

Name & classification

Scientific name:
Streptopelia senegalensis

Common names:
Laughing Dove

Palm Dove, Rooiborsduifie

Roberts VII english name:
Laughing Dove

Roberts VII scientific name:
Streptopelia senegalensis

Pigeons and Doves (Columbidae)

Further information



Laughing doves eat the fallen seeds, mainly of grasses, other vegetable matter and small ground insects such as termites and beetles.

The species is usually seen in pairs or small parties and only rarely in larger groups, but larger groups are formed especially when drinking at waterholes in arid regions. In urban environments, larger groups also form where there is a constant supply of feed (e.g. at bird feeders).

Small numbers assemble on trees near waterholes before flying to the water's edge where they are able to suck up water like other members of the pigeon family.

They are fairly terrestrial, foraging on the ground in grasslands and cultivation.

Their flight is quick and direct with the regular beats and an occasional sharp flick of the wings which are characteristic of pigeons in general.

The laughing call is 6 to 8 notes of a low rolling koo kuKUkuru-koo with a rising and falling amplitude.

The male in courtship display follows the female with head bobbing displays while cooing. A female accepts by crouching.

Males may also launch into the air with wing clapping sounds and then glide down in a gentle arc when displaying.

The nest is a very flimsy platform of twigs built in a low bush and sometimes in crevices or under the eaves of houses. Both parents build the nest with males bringing the twigs which are then placed by the female. The nests and eggs are prone to wind damage in exposed locations.

Two eggs are laid within an interval of a day between them and both parents take part in incubating and feeding the young. Males spend more time incubating the nest during the day.

The eggs are incubated after the second egg is laid and the eggs hatch after about 13 to 15 days.

Nesting adults may feign injury to distract and draw predators away from the nest.

Multiple broods may be raised by the same pair in the same nest.

The young fledge and leave the nest after about 14 to 16 days.

Natural distribution:
This species is found in much of Sub-Saharan Africa, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

It is also found in Israel, Lebanon, Syria, the UAE and Turkey (these populations may be derived from human introductions).

They are mostly sedentary but some populations do move. Birds ringed in Gujarat have been recovered 200 km north in Pakistan and exhausted birds have been recorded landing on ships in the Arabian Sea. Birds that land on ships may be introduced to new regions.

The Laughing Dove is most common in dry lowland, woodland, especially Acacia. Less common in high rainfall areas. It has adapted well to urban and suburban areas where they can become very tame.

The Jacobin cuckoo sometimes lays its egg in the nests of the laughing dove in Africa.

South African birds sometimes show a beak deformity in which the upper mandible overgrowth occurs.

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