Laughing dove (Stigmatopelia senegalensis)

Also known as: Indian little brown dove, laughing turtle-dove, palm dove, Senegal dove
Synonyms: Columba senegalensis, Streptopelia senegalensis
French: Tourterelle maillée
GenusStigmatopelia (1)
SizeLength: 25 cm (2)
Wingspan: 40 cm (3)
Weight100 g (3) (4)

The laughing dove is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The laughing dove (Stigmatopelia senegalensis) gets its name from its particularly characteristic call, which sounds like human laughter (3) (5).

The head, neck and breast of the laughing dove are mauve-pink, shading to white on the belly. The back and tail are a deep red, while the wings are largely slate blue. The bill is black, and a distinctive collar of black feathers with golden tips encircles the neck (3) (5).

The adult female laughing dove is similar in appearance to the male, although the plumage is slightly paler and less reddish. The juvenile laughing dove has a somewhat duller appearance than the adult, having much browner plumage (3). Five subspecies of the laughing dove are sometimes recognised (6).

The distinctive call of the laughing dove is a hollow sounding ‘ha ha hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo’ (5).

The laughing dove has an extremely large range that stretches from southern Africa to Asia, as far east as India (2) (3). It has also been introduced to Australia (2).

Although primarily an inhabitant of woodland and savanna, the laughing dove is also found around human habitations, in farmland, villages and towns (3) (5) (7). The laughing dove tends to nest in fruit trees, particularly in pomegranate and olive trees in Africa (7).

The laughing dove feeds primarily on seeds, but it also eats other vegetable matter, such as fruit, as well as small insects, particularly termites (3) (5). It typically takes fallen seeds and fruit from the ground, although occasionally it may pluck and eat fruit while perched (3).

Although the laughing dove typically occurs individually or in pairs (6), it may gather in flocks at watering points, roosting spots (3), or where there is an abundance of food. At such feeding sites, hooting and moaning can be heard as the laughing doves bicker over the food (5).

The male laughing dove has a spectacular flight display, which it performs to advertise itself to females. With noisy wing beats, it leaves its perch and flies to a considerable height before sailing downwards with its wings and tail spread wide. When courting, the male rapidly bobs its head while gently cooing, showing off its colourful collar (3) (5). Before mating occurs, the female has also been observed transferring some food into the male’s open bill (5).

A monogamous bird, the laughing dove only has one partner and will tend to return to the same nesting site year after year (7). It may nest at any time during the year, but peaks in nesting are often recorded in spring (3), or during the rainy season (5). Each nest is typically situated on its own, in a fruit tree, but occasionally a few breeding pairs may nest close together (3).

The male laughing dove collects materials for the nest and the female then builds the nest with meticulous care. Each nest consists of 100 to 140 twigs and, despite its flimsy appearance, it can last up to nine months, even through monsoons (5). The female typically lays two eggs at a time, and both the male and female take turns to incubate the eggs for up to two weeks. The female lays eggs on average 6 times each year, resulting in 10 to 16 eggs being produced per breeding season (3).

The laughing dove population is believed to be stable, in the absence of any evidence of population declines or substantial threats to the species (2).

There are currently no known specific conservation measures in place for the laughing dove (2).

Find out more about the laughing dove and its conservation:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2010)
  2. Birdlife International - Laughing dove (November, 2010)
  3. Rowan, M.K. (1983) The Doves, Parrots, Louries and Cuckoos of Southern Africa. David Philip, South Africa.
  4. Underhill, L.G., Underhill, G.D. and Spottiswoode, C.N. (1999) Primary moult and body-mass of the cape turtle dove Streptopelia capicola, and its abundance relative to the laughing dove S. senegalensis, in the Western Cape. Ostrich, 70: 196-199.
  5. Burton, M. and Burton, R. (2002) International Wildlife Encyclopaedia: Third Edition. Marshall Cavendish, New York.
  6. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1996) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  7. Boukhriss, J. and Selmi, S. (2009) Nesting habits and reproductive success of the laughing dove Streptopelia senegalensis in the oases of Southern Tunisia. Alauda, 77(3): 187-192.