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What Do Doves Eat?

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Doves are members of the Columbidae family which includes pigeons.  The Columbidae bird family includes over 300 species of birds that all share features like thick round bodies with short necks and short beaks.

The main difference between doves and pigeons is that doves tend to have a smaller structure than pigeons.  Lots of people believe that doves are just those domesticated white doves we see on TV.  But there are lots of dove species such as the Zebra dove, Spotted Dove, Ringdove, and many others.  Essentially, the only main difference between dove species and pigeon species is their size and the way they are named.

What Do Doves Eat and Drink

Doves and pigeons are divided into two main categories when it comes to feeding.  Some mainly feed on seeds while others mainly feed on fruit.  Some dove species may hunt for insects or small animals.  Here is a quick look at the main foods that doves love to eat:


All doves do need water to survive, especially in hot climates. These animals can become dehydrated which can result in feather loss or dry beaks and feet if they are not offered water often enough.  Doves in captivity should always have access to fresh water and you can also install a birdbath to attract more doves to your garden.

Seeds and grains

Seeds and grains are the main food source for most dove species.  It is however important for doves to be fed on food mixtures because they can only eat about 50 – 60% seeds per day.  They should also consume 40 – 50% other foods such as grains, insects, greens, and fruits.

Doves can be fed on all sorts of seeds and grains like oats, cereals, wheat, corn, barley, rye, peas, pulse, vetch, and quite a few others found in bird seed mixes.

Fruits, vegetables, and greens

Some dove and pigeon species do prefer fruits and greens over seeds.  Fruits and veggies like berries, lettuce, kale, broccoli, carrots, apples, and strawberries are ideal foods to offer your dove in addition to bird seed mixes.  If you are offering foods to doves in your garden then you can stick to just seeds since these doves do have access to other foods.

Avoid offering your dove avocado since these foods are toxic to them.

Pellet foods

Doves also enjoy eating pellet bird foods.  If you don’t have fresh fruits and veggies, then you can offer 15 – 25% pellet feeds per day.  Pellet foods usually contain lots of nutrients and are perfect for boosting the health of your doves.

Dog pellets

Some doves will also visit dog food bowls so they can eat dog pellets.  This usually won’t harm doves in any way since they also consume protein via the insects they eat.  Dog kibble also contains other foods that doves eat such as corn and other grains.


Doves love to eat insects.  They enjoy eating insects like ants, grasshoppers, crickets, earthworms, mealworms, and other types.

Ground doves and quail doves prefer insects and worms over seeds and fruits.  The Atoll fruit dove is especially known for its interest in insects like snails, moths, or even small lizards.


Doves often peck at and eat greens.  This isn’t their main food source but they will nibble at certain soft green leaves and grasses.  They also enjoy eating chopped greens like spinach, celery, salad, and many others.

Diet Variations

Doves can grow accustomed to human or dog foods.  They are eager to consume foods like bread, cookies, and dog kibble.  While these foods are not toxic to them, it probably is best to offer these foods in moderation.

How to Feed Doves

Doves are very easy to feed.  Lots of dove species like the Rock dove or the Ring-necked dove are very domesticated and learn to visit public areas so they can get food.  You can simply toss some corn or seed mixes and they will fly down to feed.

The easiest way to feed doves in your garden is by adding a hanging bird feeder that you can simply fill up every day or so.

What Do Doves Eat In the Wild?

In the wild, doves will eat a variety of foods such as seeds, greens, fruits, and insects.  Their diet can differ quite a lot as the seasons change since certain foods may be scarcer during wintertime.  Some dove species will also migrate to a warmer climate when the weather cools down in their natural habitat.

What Do Doves Eat in Captivity?

Doves in captivity such as Indian Fantails, Barbary doves, and Java or White dove are bred and kept in captivity for their beautiful voices, their meat or to carry messages.  These doves are usually kept on pellet feeds or a combination of birdseed mixes with fresh fruits and vegetables every day.

If you are offering pellet mixes, you only need to offer fresh fruits and vegetables once a week. If you are offering bird seed mixes, then you should include about 40% fresh fruits, veggies, or greens every day.

What do Baby Doves Eat?

Baby doves are called a squab.  Squabs are usually fed by their mothers who digest seeds before offering it to their young.  Orphaned squabs can be fed on baby parrot food since these contain the same nutrients that are needed by doves.

Doves may continue to feed their squabs even after they leave or fall from the nest.  At this point, the squabs will start to feed on solid foods on their own until they can fly properly and feed independently.

How Much Do Doves Eat?

As a rule of thumb, an average adult dove needs about 2 tablespoons or 30ml food per day.  Too much food can result in obesity in your dove.

How Often Do Doves Eat?

Some pet birds need to graze on food all day but doves are at their healthiest if they are offered a specific amount of food once per day.  Ideally, they should be fed in the morning so all of their food will be finished by night time.

Do Doves Eat Oats?

Yes, many dove species love to eat oats.  It is however important not to overfeed doves.  Too much oats or grains aren’t good for their feathers.  Oats are a great winter food to offer to help these birds survive harsh winters when food is scarce.

Do Doves Eat Insects?

Doves do occasionally eat insects like snails, earthworms, crickets, and grasshoppers.  These protein-rich foods are however limited compared to other foods like seeds, grains, and greens.  It is best to offer your dove only one insect per week.

Do Doves Eat Their Own Eggs?

When doves become calcium deficient they will eat their own eggs.  They might also break and eat their eggs if they become too stressed.  If you notice your doves eat their eggs then you should check for disturbances around the cage or introduce more calcium to their diet.

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