Namaqua dove (Oena capensis)

Male Namaqua dove
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Namaqua dove fact file

Namaqua dove description

GenusOena (1)

The male Namaqua dove (Oena capensis) is a striking bird, with a black face and throat accompanied by a vibrant red and yellow bill. The female Namaqua dove lacks the bright bill and the black ‘mask’ of the male, but both sexes have an impressively long, mostly black tail. The rest of the Namaqua dove’s plumage consists of blue-grey on the head progressing subtly into pale brown on the back. Juvenile Namaqua doves are a fawn colour with many black speckles (2).

While not a very vocal bird, the Namaqua dove does make quiet cooing sounds as well as a series of short notes descending in pitch (3).

The Namaqua dove is the only species in the genus Oena, but it is very similar to doves in the genus Turtur, which have similar colour patterns on the wings and bill, and similar speckled plumage on the juvenile. However, the Namaqua dove can be distinguished from these similar species by its long tail and the marked differences in plumage between the sexes (3).

Tourterelle à masque de fer.
Length: 28 cm (2)
28 - 54 g (2)

Namaqua dove biology

The Namaqua dove’s diet consists primarily of small grass seeds, though it will occasionally also eat invertebrates. It occurs mainly singly or in pairs, although large flocks of several hundred Namaqua doves may form around water or abundant food sources (2). While some Namaqua dove populations remain in the same area all year round, some are nomadic, moving from place to place, and others migrate seasonally (2). These seasonal migrations seem to be related to rainfall (3).

Nest construction by the Namaqua dove usually begins in March in Arabia, although in parts of Africa, breeding can occur at any time of the year. The nest consists of a small platform of meshed twigs lined with grass, usually situated in a low bush. Usually two, pale yellow eggs are laid by May and are incubated by both parents for about two weeks. The young chicks fledge at around 16 days of age (2) (4)


Namaqua dove range

The Namaqua dove is found throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa (2), as well as throughout the Arabian Peninsula (4). A subspecies, Oena capensis aliena, occurs in Madagascar (2).


Namaqua dove habitat

This species is found in dry, open areas where there is some cover from bushes, such as savannah, grassland and agricultural land. In grassy areas it prefers places where the grass is shorter due to grazing or trampling by large mammals (3) (4). The Namaqua dove is typically found no higher than 1,600 metres above sea level (2).


Namaqua dove status

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

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Namaqua dove threats

There are no known major threats to the Namaqua dove at present.


Namaqua dove conservation

There are currently no known conservation measures in place for the Namaqua dove, which has a large range and a stable, or even increasing, population (5).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi is a principal sponsor of ARKive. EAD is working to protect and conserve the environment as well as promoting sustainable development in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

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A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
Kept warm so that development is possible.
Animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms and spiders.
A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.


  1. IUCN Red List (January, 2011)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliot, A. and Sargataal, J. (1997) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 4: Sandgrouse to Cuckoos. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. Rowan, M.K. (1983) The Doves, Parrots, Louries and Cuckoos of Southern Africa. David Phillips Publishers, South Africa.
  4. Jennings, M. (2000) Namaqua dove Oena capensis in the UAE and its spread through the Arabian Peninsula. Tribulus, 10(1): 18-19.
  5. BirdLife International (January, 2011)

Image credit

Male Namaqua dove  
Male Namaqua dove

© Peter Steyn /

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