The Laughing Dove, also known as Spilopelia senegalensis, Little Brown Doves, Palm Dove, and Senegal Doves, is a dove species that breeds in Africa, the Indian subcontinent, Middle East, and Western Australia. It is a small bird with a long tail that belongs to the family Columbidae, together with pigeons and other dove species.
French zoologist Mathurin Jacques Brisson first described this bird species in 1760. Brisson included his description of the dove in his sixth volume of Ornithologie based on a specimen collected in Senegal. He gave it a French name “La tourterelle à gorge tachetée du Sénégal” and a Latin name “Tutur gutture maculato senegalensis.” In 1766, Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus updated the name of this species in his Systema Naturae.
Five subspecies of the Laughing Dove have been recognized. They have been categorized according to their size and plumage differences:
- s. phoenicophila – Found from Morocco to northwest Libya
- s. aegyptiaca – Found around the Nile Valley
- s. senegalensis – Located around west Arabia, Socotra Island, and south of Sahara
- s. cambayensis – Located in east Arabia, Iran, India, and Bangladesh
- s. ermanni – Found in Kazakhstan, north Afghanistan, and western China
Since its range is widespread and its population is at a stable rise, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List categorized the Laughing Dove as Least Concern.
Its eight levels of scientific classification are as follows:
Species: S. senegalensis
The physical characteristics of a Laughing Dove
This small, long-tailed bird species usually measures 9 to 10 inches in length and its wingspan measures around 16 – 18 inches. An adult Laughing Dove has a plumage that is generally mottled reddish-brown with some blue-gray markings on the lower parts of its wings. It has dark gray flight feathers, and its outer tail feathers have white tips. When in flight, it shows its rich chestnut underwings. Its head and neck are pink and lilac toned, and this color extends down to its lower belly. It has black markings on its throat.
An adult Laughing Dove possesses a dark, black bill, and reddish or purple legs and feet. Its flight is described as “quick and direct with the regular beats and an occasional sharp flick of wings.” Male and female Laughing Doves share similar physical characteristics.
The distribution and habitat of Laughing Doves
These little doves can be sighted across Africa, the Middle East, and several parts of Asia, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India. This species was introduced to Perth, Australia in 1889.
Laughing Doves frequent a wide array of habitats, including woodland savannahs, thickets of acacias, bushlands, and suburban areas. They are usually seen in large towns, parks, gardens, and villages.
The behavior of a Laughing Dove
A Laughing Dove is usually seen alone, with a pair, or in a small group comprising 3-4 individuals. It can occasionally gather into large flocks made up to hundreds of birds around a water source or abundant food source.
When threatened, the male Laughing Dove chases the intruder with its erect head and inflated neck to expose its scaled patterns on the foreneck. This display is coupled with a deep, rapid series of “cooos.” This behavior can be compared to its courtship displays, but that is a way to attract the intruder entering its territory.
They are usually sedentary birds, but they can be partially migratory in some regions depending on weather conditions. It has a powerful, fast flight compared to other dove species.
Laughing Doves create monogamous pairs that last for life. They breed all-year-round and nests situated in shrubs and trees that stand between 3 and 15 meters above the ground. The nest is built by the female alone—a flimsy platform made of twigs, roots, stems, and other plant materials brought by the male. The female Laughing Dove lays two white eggs, which will be incubated by the female alone for two weeks.
The diet of a Laughing Dove
Laughing Doves feed on seeds, grains, small insects, termites, flies, ants, fruits, and nectar from Aloe. They particularly fancy sunflower seeds and grains of maize. They usually forage on the ground near shrubs.
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