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10 Fascinating Facts About Bar-Shouldered Doves You Didn’t Know

The Bar-shouldered Dove, scientifically known as Geopelia humeralis, is a species of dove native to Australia, Papua New Guinea, and some surrounding islands. This bird is popular among birdwatchers because of its unique physical appearance and distinct calls.


Field Identification

At first glance, the Bar-shouldered Dove may look similar to other dove species, but upon closer inspection, you’ll notice its distinct field characteristics. These birds have a soft, grayish-brown plumage on their upper body and wings.

Their underparts are white with black spots on the breast. The head and neck are a paler color than the rest of the bird’s body, and a black ring surrounds the neck.

Their eyes are a bright red color.

Similar Species

One bird that’s sometimes mistaken for the Bar-shouldered Dove is the Peaceful Dove. These birds can be distinguished by their more muted plumage, which lacks the black spots on the breast and the black ring around the neck.

Another dove species that’s similar in appearance is the Diamond Dove. This bird has a distinct white patch on the throat and a bluish-gray plumage on the wings.


The Bar-shouldered Dove has a total of three different plumages during the course of their lives.

Juvenile Plumage

The first plumage that a Bar-shouldered Dove has during its life is the juvenile plumage. This plumage is characterized by a light brown coloring with no black spots on the breast.

Adult Plumage

The second plumage that a Bar-shouldered Dove has is the adult plumage. This plumage is similar to the juvenile plumage, but the black spots on the breast appear, making the bird distinct.

The plumage fades from light brown to a mottled gray-brown on the wings.

Courtship Plumage

The third and final plumage of the Bar-shouldered Dove is the courtship plumage. This plumage appears during the breeding season when the bird is trying to attract a mate.

The courtship plumage is characterized by a more vivid coloration on the wings and head, and a more prominent black ring around the neck.


The Bar-shouldered Dove undergoes molts, shedding their feathers and growing new ones. The molting process helps them maintain their feathers in good condition, which is essential for flight and thermoregulation.

The Bar-shouldered Dove undergoes both a complete molt after breeding season and a partial molt after raising their young. During the complete molt, the bird sheds all of their feathers at once and grows new ones.

During the partial molt, the bird sheds some of its feathers and grows new ones to maintain its feather condition.


The Bar-shouldered Dove is a beautiful bird that’s well-known among birdwatchers and researchers alike. By understanding the physical characteristics, plumages, and molting process of Bar-shouldered Dove, you’ll be better equipped to identify and appreciate this unique species.

Systematics History

The Bar-shouldered Dove was first described by the British naturalist, George Shaw, in 1794. It was originally given the scientific name Columba humeralis, but was later reclassified as Geopelia humeralis in 1837 by John Gould.

Since then, the systematics of this species have been updated multiple times based on new research findings and advancements in technology.

Geographic Variation

The Bar-shouldered Dove is widely distributed across Australia and in some parts of Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. Due to its vast range, the species is subject to geographic variation.

The differences in geographic variation can be noticed in the coloration and size of the bird’s plumage across different populations.


The Bar-shouldered Dove has eleven recognized subspecies. These subspecies are differentiated based on various aspects of their morphology, which includes differences in plumage, size, and geographic location.

The subspecies are as follows:

1. G.

h. cinerea: Found in northwestern Australia and has paler plumage.

2. G.

h. leilas: Found in the central lowlands of Australia and is slightly smaller than other subspecies.

3. G.

h. humeralis: Known as the nominate subspecies, it is found in northeastern Queensland and is the largest of the subspecies.

4. G.

h. seducta: Found in southeastern Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, this subspecies is slightly smaller than G.

h. humeralis.

5. G.

h. rogersi: Found in northern Queensland and has a reddish coloration on its wings.

6. G.

h. rufopectus: Found in the Northern Territory of Australia, the subspecies has a chestnut-colored patch on the abdomen.

7. G.

h. nehrkornae: Found in New Guinea and the Aru Islands, this subspecies has a more vibrant and brownish plumage compared to its Australian counterparts.

8. G.

h. intermedia: Found in the eastern Moluccas, it is slightly larger and slightly darker than G.

h. nehrkornae.

9. G.

h. melvillensis: Found in the eastern parts of Timor, it has a more reddish tinge to its plumage.

10. G.

h. erythroptera: Found in the Tanimbar Islands of Indonesia, it has a more uniformly gray-colored head and neck with reddish wings.

11. G.

h. malaccensis: Found in a small portion of the Malay Peninsula, it is the smallest of the subspecies and has a more uniform grayish-brown plumage.

Related Species

The Bar-shouldered Dove belongs to the Genus Geopelia, which is made up of thirteen species of small doves. The members of this genus are easily recognized due to their unique and varied physical appearance.

Some species of Geopelia are so similar in appearance that they have historically been considered as conspecifics or part of a larger group. One such species is the Peaceful Dove (Geopelia placida), which is found in northern and eastern Australia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea.

These two doves look very similar, except for the fact that the Peaceful Dove lacks the black spots on the breast and the black ring around the neck that is found in the Bar-shouldered Dove.

Historical Changes to Distribution

The distribution of the Bar-shouldered Dove has undergone significant changes over the past few centuries. The species is native to Australia, where it is found in the northern and eastern regions of the country.

However, with the advent of human civilization and the introduction of new predators, the distribution of the Bar-shouldered Dove has been altered. In the early 1900s, the Bar-shouldered Dove was introduced to the neighboring country of Papua New Guinea.

The species quickly established itself in the wild and has since become a common sight in the country. Today, the Bar-shouldered Dove can be found throughout most parts of the country, including in the lowlands, grasslands, and forested regions.


The Bar-shouldered Dove is a fascinating and beautiful species that has undergone numerous changes in its systematics and distribution over the years. By understanding the subspecies, geographic variations, and related species of the Bar-shouldered Dove, we can gain a better appreciation of the diversity and complexity of this species.


The Bar-shouldered Dove is a species of bird that is found in a variety of habitats across its range. They are most commonly found in coastal regions, lowland grasslands, and savannas, as well as in forests and woodlands.

Due to their ability to adapt to different environments, they can also be found in human-altered areas such as farmlands and urban areas. In Australia, the Bar-shouldered Dove is found in the northern regions of the country, where the climate is tropical.

They are commonly found in coastal wetlands, mangrove swamps, and adjacent rainforests. In Papua New Guinea, they are found in lowland forests and in agricultural areas.

They are also able to tolerate dry conditions and are found in arid areas of central Australia.

Movements and Migration

The Bar-shouldered Dove is primarily a sedentary bird, meaning that it does not have a regular migration pattern. However, they have been known to undertake seasonal movements and to travel from one feeding source to another in search of food.

These migrations are often prompted by changes in rainfall and food availability. In Australia, the Bar-shouldered Dove is known to move to different locations during the wet season in search of food.

They are often found in floodplains and around areas of standing water where they can forage for insects and other small invertebrates. During the dry season, they move back towards the coast where food resources are more plentiful.

In Papua New Guinea, the Bar-shouldered Dove is known to undertake seasonal movements to higher altitudes as the weather becomes cooler and damper. During these movements, they change their feeding and breeding habits and can often be found in agricultural areas where they can forage for grain and seeds.


The breeding season of the Bar-shouldered Dove is from October to March each year in Australia and from July to December in Papua New Guinea. During this time, males engage in courtship displays, which include wing flapping, cooing, and bowing.

The males also strut and puff out their chests to attract females. Once a mate has been found, the pair will build a simple nest, usually just a platform of twigs and leaves, and will lay one or two eggs.

The eggs are incubated for around 14 to 15 days, after which the young are born. The chicks are fed on crop milk, which is produced by the parents for the first few days of their life.

By the time the chicks are two weeks old, they are able to feed themselves and can fly at around four weeks old.


The Bar-shouldered Dove is classified as a species of Least Concern by the International Union for the

Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This is because the species is widespread and abundant, with a population estimated to be in the millions.

The species is not considered to be threatened by any major threats, however, habitat loss and fragmentation can affect certain subspecies.


The Bar-shouldered Dove is a fascinating bird species that is found in multiple habitats across its range. Its movements and migration patterns are often prompted by changes in weather patterns and food availability.

During the breeding season, the species engages in courtship displays and builds a simple nest for its young. Overall, the species is not considered to be threatened, however, habitat loss and fragmentation can still pose a risk to some of its subspecies.

Diet and Foraging


The Bar-shouldered Dove is generally a ground-dwelling bird that forages mainly on the ground. They are not very agile fliers and only tend to fly for short periods.

Their foraging behavior can be characterized as being active and opportunistic. They forage both independently and together in pairs or small groups, sometimes teaming up with other species of birds like the Zebra Finch (Taeniopygia guttata).


The Bar-shouldered Dove is an omnivorous species that feeds mainly on seeds, fruits, and insects. They have been known to feed on a wide variety of plant species, including grasses, sedges, and various shrubs.

They also feed on insects like ants, termites, and beetles, as well as spiders and snails. In Australia, the seeds of grasses and other herbs make up a significant portion of their diet.

During periods of heavy rainfall, they feed on invertebrates that are washed out of the soil and onto the surface of the ground. In Papua New Guinea, they feed on agricultural crops such as maize, wheat, and sorghum.

Because of this, they are seen as crop pests in some areas and are persecuted by farmers.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

The Bar-shouldered Dove has a relatively low metabolic rate compared to other bird species, which means that they require less food to sustain their energy levels. This makes them well-adapted to dry environments where food resources are scarce.

To regulate their body temperature, Bar-shouldered Doves have a unique way of reducing heat loss through their legs and feet. They have a specially-adapted circulatory system where the arterial blood vessels that supply the legs and feet are intertwined with the veins that carry the deoxygenated blood back to the heart.

This allows the warm arterial blood to heat the cooler venous blood, reducing heat loss.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior


Bar-shouldered Doves are known for their distinctive vocalizations, which consists of a series of low-pitched coos. The coos are pleasing to the ear and often form a rhythmical duet between two birds.

These coos can vary in tonal quality and rhythm depending on the relationship and context shared between individuals. Males make these coos to attract females during the breeding season.

They may also use these vocalizations to announce their territory and to warn off other males. During courtship displays, Bar-shouldered Doves use a variety of other sounds such as wing flapping and bowing to impress their potential mate.

In addition to the cooing, Bar-shouldered Doves also make a range of other vocalizations such as chuckles and roars. These sounds are generally used as a sign of alarm or aggression.

These birds also communicate visually such as through head-bobbing and preening, in order to establish dominance and social hierarchy.


The Bar-shouldered Dove is an omnivorous, ground-dwelling bird species that feeds primarily on seeds, fruits, and insects. They have a relatively low metabolic rate and are well-adapted to environments with limited food resources.

They are known for their distinctive low-pitched coos, used as a means of communication between individuals. These vocalizations are used primarily during the breeding season and to announce territory and warn off other males.

The Bar-shouldered Doves unique metabolism and vocalizations are fascinating and contribute to the rich diversity of the bird world.



The Bar-shouldered Dove is a relatively ground-dwelling bird species and spends most of its time on the ground foraging. They have a distinctive, rolling gait when moving on the ground, moving their body from side to side which can make them appear as though they are waddling.

The birds can also fly over short distances but are not very agile fliers and tend to stick close to the ground.


Bar-shouldered Doves are fastidious about their grooming and spend significant amounts of time preening their feathers. Preening is critical to their health because it helps to remove parasites and dead skin, while also helping to keep feathers in good condition.

They will use their beak to comb through their feathers, working to remove anything that could be potentially harmful or irritating to their skin.

Agonistic Behavior

Agonistic behavior is commonly observed in Bar-shouldered Dove and helps to establish social hierarchy and maintain territories. These behaviors can include tail-fanning, neck stretching, and puffing up feathers to appear larger.

Violent physical confrontations are relatively uncommon between Bar-shouldered Dove because the birds use less dangerous signals of aggression to maintain distance.

Sexual Behavior

The Bar-shouldered Dove is a monogamous bird species, where they form long-term pair bonds with their mate. They undertake a series of courtship behaviors before mating, such as wing flapping and cooing.

Males will also puff their chests and strut around, trying to impress their potential mate. These behaviors often include both visual and vocal cues, which help to establish trust and familiarity in the pair bond.


The breeding season for Bar-shouldered Doves is generally from October to March each year in Australia and from July to December in Papua New Guinea. Once a mate has been established, the pair will work together to build a simple nest made of twigs, leaves, and other vegetation.

The nest will be placed in an area of protective cover, such as dense vegetation or tall grasses. The female Bar-shouldered Dove will lay one or two eggs that will be incubated by both parents for around 14 to 15 days.

After hatching, the chick will be fed a crop milk produced by both parents for the first few days of their life. Once they are two weeks old, the chicks can feed themselves and will typically start to fly at around four weeks old.

Demography and Populations

Bar-shouldered Dove populations are relatively stable, and the species is not considered to be threatened. They have a large population that is distributed across a vast area of northern Australia and Papua New Guinea.

Human activity, such as habitat destruction, can affect the species’ survival, particularly for subspecies that are dependent on specific types of vegetation. Future research may be needed to better understand the population densities, range size, and migration patterns of some subspecies in order to better conserve the species in the long-term.


The Bar-shouldered Dove is a fascinating species of bird, with a range of behavioral adaptations to their environment, such as locomotion, self-maintenance, agonistic and sexual behaviors. Bar-shouldered Dove are typically monogamous and breeding patterns vary slightly across their geographic range.

Ongoing conservation efforts will be necessary

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