The first bird that I photographed when I got a new camera was a Laughing dove. This is not unusual as the Laughing dove is extremely common and this particular specimen was visiting a water bowl at our home. What was perhaps unusual was that when I looked at the first photograph, was that I noticed a mosquito sitting on the bird’s underside. This can be seen in the photo below.
Laughing doves are fairly small as doves go, being about 25 cms in length. The sexes are similar in plumage, the female being slightly paler than the male. They are pinkish grey in colour, and are the only doves in the Southern African region that have pinkish-grey heads, rufous breasts spotted with black and that lack the black collar on the back of the neck. The Afrikaans name for this bird is “Rooiborsduifie” or “Red-chested little dove” which fits its description pretty well. The bird’s belly is white, fading into the pale rufous of the breast. Legs and feet are purplish, the bill is black and the eyes are brown.
The Laughing dove is very widespread, being found throughout Southern Africa and northwards through the rest of Africa as well as parts of Central Asia. It may occur in pairs or small flocks, although solitary birds are not uncommon. It adapts well to the presence of people and is found in most towns and built up areas, where it frequently visits bird feeders. When it forages on the ground it adopts a hunched posture and bobs its bead frequently as it walks with forward with small steps. It feeds mainly on seeds and fallen grain, but will also take insects and snails.
Its bubbling call gives the bird its common name, as the multiple notes “koo-koo-kuRUkuku-koo”, has a distinctive laughing quality about it.
Laughing doves are monogamous and the nest that they build is a small platform of twigs in the fork of a tree or bush. The female lays a clutch of two white eggs that hatch after an incubation period of about 14 days.
The scientific name of the Laughing dove is Streptopelia senegalensis; Streptopelia from the Greek words for “collar” and “dove”, and senegalensis from the African country of Senegal. Thus a collared dove from Senegal, which is not apt at all as the Laughing dove does not have a collar.