Laughing Dove (Spilopelia Senegalensis): Profile and Information

Laughing Dove

Doves are famous as a bird of peace, but not everyone knows that not all doves are white.

The laughing dove is a small-sized pigeon that is mainly resident in the Middle East, Africa, and the Indian Subcontinent.

This little long-tailed dove is mostly found in semi-desert and dry scrub habitats, where you can find them feeding in pairs on the ground.

Scientific classification

  • Scientific name: Spilopelia senegalensis
  • Order: Columbiformes
  • Class: Aves
  • Mass: 82g
  • Conservation status: Least Concern (Population stable)
  • Higher classification: Spilopelia

The Laughing Dove has a rufous and black chequered natural necklace that gives it a unique pattern and is also easy to distinguish from other types of doves by its call.

This bird goes by other common names, including Senegal Dove, Palm Dove, while in India, it is often called the Little Brown Dove.

At some point, the dove was introduced in Western Australia and has since established itself in the Australian wild around Fremantle and Perth.

Description of The Laughing Dove

The Laughing Dove is a slim, long-tailed pigeon, and typically comes at 25 cm (9.8 in) in length. The bird has a pinkish-brown color on the underside with its head and neck donning a lilac splash.

The dove’s head and underparts are pinkish, gradually shading to buff towards the lower abdomen. You can find a chequered rufous with a grey patch on the sides of the bird’s neck, and they are made up of split feathers.

The bird’s upperparts appear brownish with a bluish-grey band together with the wing. The laughing doves have a uniform back, which is dull brown amongst the Indian population.

The ones found in Africa, senegalensis, and phoenicophila are known to have a bluish-grey upper tail coverts and rump, but greatly differ in the shades of the wing and neck feathers.

The aegyptiaca is a larger variety, and it has a head and nape that are vinous with upper wing coverts that are rufous. The tail of this bird is graduated, with the outer feathers tipped in white.

In the field, it is impossible to distinguish the sexes. Young birds do not have the chequered neck markings. Almost all varieties have red legs. The populations have varied plumage with the ones from more arid zones looking paler.

Some abnormal leucistic plumages have been noticed. The laughing dove has a unique chuckling call best described as a low rolling, but consistent croo-doo-doo-doo-doo with an amplitude that rises and falls.

Distribution and habitat

This bird is a widespread and common species in scrub, dry farmland, and even around domestic settlements, often becoming very tame.

You can mostly find the species in much of Saudi Arabia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Iran, Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan. It is also found in Lebanon, Israel, Syria, and Turkey as a result of human introductions.

These birds are mostly sedentary, but if it is not uncommon for some populations may make frequent movements. Birds that were ringed in Gujarat have been found 200 km north in Pakistan, and on several occasions, exhausted birds have been recorded falling on ships in the Arabian Sea.

The species of laughing doves thought to belong to the nominate population were not introduced to Perth until 1889 and has become established around Western Australia. Birds that fall or land on ships are sometimes added to new regions.

Systematics and taxonomy

Laughing Dove

This species of the dove was described by Linnaeus, who was also responsible for placing it in the genus Columba together with other pigeons.

It was later reassigned to the genus Streptopelia, but a research of molecular phylogeny showed that this dove and the Spotted Dove were different from the rest of the Streptopelia species that led to the adoption of an older genus name that was used for this dove species by Carl Sundevall.

Unfortunately, Sundevall ended up using the name Stigmatopelia senegalensis and Spilopelia for the species of Spotted Dove on the same page of the book he wrote in 1872.

Several populations of this bird with tiny size and plumage differences have been categorized as subspecies, and they include:

  • S. s. phoenicophila (Hartert, 1916) : local to Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia
  • S. s. aegyptiaca (Latham, 1790) : local to Nile valley
  • S. s. senegalensis (Linnaeus, 1766) : local to Senegal and Nigeria including aequatorialis
  • S. s. cambayensis (Gmelin, 1789) : local to India
  • S. s. ermanni (Bonaparte, 1856): local to Afghanistan and Turkestan
  • S. s. sokotrae (Grant, 1914): local to Socotra Island
  • S. s. Dakhla (Meinertzhagen, 1928): local to Dakhla oasis, Libya
  • S. s. thome (Bannerman, 1931) : local to Sao Thome Island

Behavior and ecology of the laughing dove

This specie of dove is usually seen in pairs or sometimes small parties, but only rarely in large groups. You can only find them in larger groups, especially when they drink at waterholes in arid regions.

Small numbers of this bird assemble on trees close to waterholes before they fly to the edge of the water where they can suck up water the same way as other members of the pigeon family.


Laughing Doves are known to eat the fallen seeds, mostly of grasses, small ground insects like beetles or termites, and other vegetable matter.

These birds are relatively terrestrial, mostly foraging on the ground in cultivation and grasslands.

Their flight is direct and quick with the regular beats and an occasional sharp flick of their wings, which are a common pigeon characteristic.

The male of this dive in courtship display is seen following the female with head-bobbing displays while it coos.

The male will peck its folded wings in “displacement-preening” as a way to solicit copulation from the opposite sex. A female shows acceptance by crouching and also begging for food.

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