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6 Fascinating Facts About the Caribbean Dove

The Caribbean Dove, Leptotila jamaicensis, is a species of bird found in the Caribbean Islands, Central America, and South America. Also called the Key West Quail-Dove, Jamaica Dove, or White-tipped Dove, the bird species is known for its gentle and peaceful demeanor.


The Caribbean Dove is a medium-sized bird, approximately the size of a small chicken. It has a plump body and a round head, with a short and slim bill.

Its feathers are soft and silky, with a dusty olive-brown color on the upperparts and a reddish-brown hue on the underparts. The wings have brownish-gray primaries with a white patch on the secondaries, while the tail feathers are dark brown with a white tip.

The Caribbean Dove also has distinctive bright-red eyes, a bare red orbital ring, and a blue-gray bill. Field


The Caribbean Dove is mostly a silent bird, but it occasionally makes a low-pitched coo-oo-woo sound.

It can be found in a variety of habitats, including open woodland, savannahs, gardens, and forest edges. It is usually found foraging on the ground, where it feeds on seeds, fruits, and insects.

The bird is shy and elusive, often blending in with its surroundings during the day and roosting in trees at night.

Similar Species

The Caribbean Dove is commonly confused with other dove species in its range, including the Grey-fronted Dove, the White-winged Dove, and the Ruddy Quail-Dove. However, the Caribbean Dove can easily be distinguished from these species by its bright-red eyes, white wingtips, reddish undertail coverts, and blue-gray bill.


The Caribbean Dove is a year-round resident and does not migrate. However, it undergoes a complete molt once a year, where it sheds its old feathers and regrows new ones.

The molt usually occurs between July and September in the Caribbean region, and between February and May in Central and South America. During the molt, the bird’s appearance can vary, with some individuals exhibiting a darker or lighter plumage than usual.

Young Caribbean Doves have duller plumage than adults, and they also lack the red orbital ring and blue-gray bill.


The Caribbean Dove undergoes two molts in its lifetime, the juvenile molt, and the definitive adult molt. The juvenile molt occurs within the first year of the bird’s life, where it replaces its natal down with juvenile feathers.

The definitive adult molt usually occurs in the second year and replaces the previous year’s feathers. The Caribbean Dove is monomorphic, meaning that male and female individuals have the same appearance and plumage.


The Caribbean Dove is a beautiful bird species that is native to many regions of the world. With its gentle nature and unique features, the Caribbean Dove is a fascinating subject for birdwatchers and nature lovers alike.

Understanding the Caribbean Dove’s identification, field identification, and plumages is essential for identifying these birds and appreciating their natural beauty. of knowledge article.

Systematics History

The Caribbean Dove, Leptotila jamaicensis, is part of the family Columbidae, which includes pigeons and doves. The species was first described by the French naturalist Philibert Commerson in 1782, who named it Columba jamaicensis.

Over the years, the bird’s taxonomy has undergone several changes due to advancements in genetic research.

Geographic Variation

The Caribbean Dove has a widespread distribution in the Americas, from southern Texas and the Gulf coast of Florida in the United States, to the Caribbean Islands, Central America, and South America. The bird’s geographic variation is evident in its plumage color, size, and morphology, which vary depending on the region.


The Caribbean Dove has several recognized subspecies that differ in appearance and range. These include:


L. j.

jamaicensis – Found in the Caribbean Islands and eastern Puerto Rico. This subspecies has a darker plumage than other Caribbean Doves, with a brownish-olive upperparts and a reddish-brown underparts.

2. L.

j. saturata – Found in central Puerto Rico.

This subspecies is larger than L. j.

jamaicensis, with a more reddish-brown color on the underparts and a grayer head. 3.

L. j.

brachyptera – Found in central and eastern Mexico. This subspecies is smaller than other Caribbean Doves, with a more grayish-brown color on the upperparts and a pinkish-white underparts.

4. L.

j. taczanowskii – Found in western Colombia and western Ecuador.

This subspecies has a more rust-colored upperparts than other Caribbean Doves and a white belly.

Related Species

The Caribbean Dove is closely related to other species of doves in the genus Leptotila, including the Grey-fronted Dove (L. plumbeiceps), the White-tipped Dove (L.

verreauxi), and the Ruddy Quail-Dove (L. jamaicensis).

These species have similar body shapes and plumage color but differ in their geographic ranges and vocalizations.

Historical Changes to Distribution

The Caribbean Dove’s distribution has undergone significant changes over time, mainly due to habitat loss and fragmentation. In the 1800s, the bird’s populations were abundant in the island of Puerto Rico.

However, the expansion of agriculture and deforestation caused a decline in their numbers, leading to the extinction of L. j.

portoricensis in the early 1900s. In the United States, the Caribbean Dove’s range has expanded northward due to climate change and habitat modification.

The bird has been observed in areas where it was previously absent, such as southern Louisiana and eastern Texas. These changes in the bird’s distribution have raised concerns about the species’ conservation status and genetic diversity.

Additionally, the Caribbean Dove’s populations in Central and South America have also experienced declines due to hunting and habitat loss. In some regions, the bird is considered a game species, which has led to overhunting and reduced breeding success.

The bird’s vulnerability to threats highlights the importance of protecting their habitats and implementing conservation measures.


The Caribbean Dove is a diverse and widespread species that has undergone significant changes in its taxonomy and distribution over time. The bird’s geographic variation and subspecies provide insight into the evolutionary history and adaptation of the species.

However, threats to their habitats and populations highlight the need for continued conservation efforts to protect this beautiful bird species. of knowledge article.


The Caribbean Dove is a highly adaptable bird found in a variety of habitats, ranging from dense forests to urban gardens. The species’ habitat preferences vary depending on the region and the availability of food and shelter.

In the Caribbean Islands, the Caribbean Dove is commonly found in scrublands, dry forests, and urban areas. The bird is also known to inhabit mangroves and coastal areas, where it feeds on a diet of fruits, seeds, and insects.

In Puerto Rico, the Caribbean Dove is found in a variety of forest types, including dry, moist, and montane forests. In Central and South America, the Caribbean Dove is found in rainforests, savannahs, and dry forests.

The bird’s range includes the Amazon basin, the Andean foothills, and the Caribbean coast. In these regions, the bird feeds on a variety of fruits and seeds, including figs, palms, and cecropia trees.

Movements and Migration

The Caribbean Dove is a non-migratory species that generally remains within its home range throughout the year. However, the species may exhibit local movements in response to changes in food availability or habitat conditions.

In Puerto Rico, the Caribbean Dove exhibits some seasonal movements, particularly in dry or drought years when food sources are scarce. During these times, the bird may disperse to new areas in search of food or water.

Studies have found that the species can move up to 28 km from its home range during dry seasons. However, such movements are local in nature and not considered true migrations.

In some parts of the Caribbean Islands, the Caribbean Dove may exhibit altitudinal movements in response to seasonal changes in temperature and food availability. In Colombia, the bird is known to move between montane and lowland forests in search of fruiting trees.

At times, the Caribbean Dove may congregate in large flocks, particularly during the non-breeding season. These flocks may gather around abundant food sources, such as fruiting trees or agricultural fields.

However, such gatherings are temporary and do not indicate long-distance migration. The Caribbean Dove’s resident status and limited movements make it susceptible to habitat fragmentation and loss.

The bird’s reliance on specific forest types or food sources may lead to isolation and reduced genetic diversity of local populations. Therefore, protecting the bird’s habitats and maintaining connectivity between areas is crucial to its conservation.


The Caribbean Dove is an adaptable and widespread bird species that inhabits a variety of habitats throughout its range. The species is mostly non-migratory, but may undertake local movements in response to changes in food availability or habitat conditions.

Understanding the bird’s movements and habitat requirements is essential to its conservation, particularly in light of threats posed by habitat loss and fragmentation. Protecting the species’ natural habitats and maintaining connectivity between areas is crucial to ensuring its long-term survival.

of knowledge article.

Diet and Foraging


The Caribbean Dove is a ground-dwelling bird that forages on the forest floor for food. The species is mostly active during the day, but may also forage on moonlit nights.

The bird’s foraging behavior is slow and deliberate, often walking on tiptoes and pecking at the ground to find food. The Caribbean Dove has a unique feeding behavior known as “gaping,” which involves opening its mouth wide and using its tongue to capture insects.

The species’ bill is not well-suited for catching moving prey, so it relies on this technique to capture insects and other small invertebrates. The bird also has a gizzard, which helps it digest the tough seeds and fruits that it consumes.


The Caribbean Dove is an omnivorous species, and its diet varies depending on the availability of food. The bird feeds on a variety of fruits, seeds, and insects, with a preference for soft fruit pulp and seeds of palm trees.

Insects and other invertebrates also make up a significant part of the bird’s diet, particularly during the breeding season when protein-rich food is essential for chick development. In the Caribbean Islands, the Caribbean Dove feeds on a variety of fruits and nuts, such as guava, sapodilla, and almond.

In Central and South America, the bird feeds on fruits, seeds, and nuts of trees such as cecropia, figs, and palms. The bird is also known to feed on cultivated crops, such as rice and maize, which can cause conflicts with farmers.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

The Caribbean Dove has a specialized metabolic system that allows it to maintain high body temperatures despite fluctuations in ambient temperature. The bird has a high metabolic rate, which is necessary to digest its fibrous diet and maintain body temperature.

It can also go into torpor, a state of inactivity to conserve energy during times of food scarcity. The bird’s ability to regulate body temperature is aided by its unique respiratory system, which has a network of air sacs near the lungs.

These air sacs help the bird exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide more efficiently, allowing it to maintain a high body temperature even in cold environments.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior


The Caribbean Dove has a limited vocal repertoire, with only a few vocalizations documented. The species’ vocalizations include a low-pitched “coo-oo-woo” sound, which it uses to communicate with other members of its species.

The bird may also produce a soft purring sound during courtship displays, which is believed to be a form of bonding between mates. The Caribbean Dove’s vocalizations are not complex, but they are an essential part of the bird’s social behavior.

The species may use vocalizations as a means of establishing territories, attracting mates, and maintaining social bonds. The bird’s quiet and peaceful nature is also reflected in its limited vocalizations, which are not as loud or frequent as those of other dove species.


The Caribbean Dove is a unique bird species that is adapted to its environment in both feeding behavior and temperature regulation. The bird’s specialized metabolic system allows it to maintain a high body temperature and digestive efficiency, which are crucial for its diet of tough fruits and seeds.

The species’ limited vocalizations are an essential part of its social behavior, and its quiet and peaceful nature reflects its gentle demeanor. Studying the Caribbean Dove’s diet, foraging behavior, and vocalizations can provide valuable insights into the species’ adaptations and ecological role in its natural habitat.

of knowledge article.



The Caribbean Dove is a ground-dwelling bird that moves about by walking or running. The bird’s long legs and toes are adapted for terrestrial locomotion, allowing it to walk and run quickly on uneven terrain.

The bird has a characteristic bobbing head movement that is used to balance its body while walking or running.

Self Maintenance

The Caribbean Dove spends a significant portion of its day grooming its feathers and preening. The bird uses its beak to clean and oil its feathers, which helps to maintain their integrity and waterproofing.

The species’ grooming behavior is essential for maintaining its body temperature, protecting against parasites, and ensuring flight performance.

Agonistic Behavior

The Caribbean Dove is a non-aggressive species, and conflicts between individuals are rare. However, during the breeding season or when resources are limited, the bird may exhibit aggressive behavior towards other members of its species.

Aggressive displays include bill snapping, tail flicking, and puffing up feathers to appear larger.

Sexual Behavior

The Caribbean Dove is a monogamous species that forms pairs that last for the breeding season or longer. The species’ courtship behavior includes mutual preening, bill touching, and displays of the nape and breast feathers.

The male may also perform a “bow and coo” display, where he bows his head and coos to the female.


The Caribbean Dove breeds throughout the year, with the breeding season varying depending on the region. The species usually builds nests on branches or forks of trees and shrubs, using twigs and plant fibers to construct the nest.

The female lays two white eggs, which are incubated by both parents for approximately 14 days. The hatchlings are altricial and are fed regurgitated food by both parents.

Upon hatching, the chicks are covered with white down and are brooded by the parents for several days. The chicks fledge after approximately two weeks, but they remain with their parents for several more weeks, during which time they continue to be fed and protected.

The Caribbean Dove is known to breed in loose colonies, with several nests located in close proximity to each other.

Demography and Populations

The Caribbean Dove has a stable population with no significant threats to its survival. The species’ population is estimated to be in the millions, with the largest populations found in Central and South America.

However, human activities such as habitat loss and deforestation pose a threat to local populations and may lead to declines in some regions. Conservation efforts for the Caribbean Dove include protecting its natural habitats and implementing sustainable agriculture practices to reduce conflicts with the species.

The bird’s role in seed dispersal and forest regeneration also highlights its ecological importance and the need to conserve its natural habitat.


The Caribbean Dove is a unique species with gentle behavior and a peaceful nature. Its locomotion, self-maintenance, agonistic, and sexual behaviors are all part of its daily life and are essential for its survival.

Its breeding behavior and demography contribute to the species’ resilience and stability. The Caribbean Dove’s populations are under threat from habitat loss and deforestation, and conservation efforts to protect its natural habitats are essential to ensure the species’ survival.

In conclusion, the Caribbean Dove is a diverse and widespread bird species that has undergone significant changes in its taxonomy, distribution, behavior, and diet over time. Understanding the bird’s habits, movements, and habitat requirements is crucial for its conservation and protection.

The bird’s gentle nature, peaceful demeanor, and unique adaptations make it a fascinating subject for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts alike. Preserving the Caribbean Dove’s natural habitats and maintaining connectivity between areas must remain a priority as human activities continue to impact the bird’s populations.

Ultimately, by valuing and protecting species like the Caribbean Dove, we can ensure the protection and conservation of our planet’s biodiversity for generations to come.

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