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We’ve all heard about white doves being released at weddings, anniversaries, funerals, memorials and other events and celebrations, however, what many of us don’t realise (myself included until I did some research) is that the white doves are in fact white racing/homing pigeons (Columba livia) that have been trained and have the instinct to fly home.

In fact, some people release white ringneck doves (Streptopelia risoria), which are completely unsuitable for releasing since they have no homing instinct and will in fact hang around to either die of starvation or be eaten by birds of prey. They do not fly home and therefore should never be released! (If you do in the UK then you could be prosecuted by the RSPCA for animal cruelty.) The ringneck dove is a domesticated species and the white colour is a common colour mutation of the species: Species Information – Ringneck Dove – White Mutation

The following professional dove release websites state how important it is to book professionals who train the correct species for release: White Dove Release Professionals, Lovey Dovey UK and Wings of Love.

The Professional Standards of members of the International White Dove Society state:

Rules of Release

  1. We release only well trained, well cared for WHITE DOVES from white racing pigeon stock. These are also known as Rock Doves or Columba livia. Under no circumstance are other types of doves ever released, although other types may be used for display.
  2. We only release doves out-of-doors during daylight hours.
  3. We never release birds if the conditions become unsafe due to weather or unforeseen circumstances.
  4. We will not release birds beyond a range that they are able to safely fly.
  5. We use only well trained birds for releases.
  6. While birds are being held for display, we assure that they are in baskets that are large enough to be comfortable and safe.  The baskets or cages will be kept in safe areas, not too hot or too cold.
  7. We never ship birds for self release.

For the rest please visit: http://whitedovesociety.org/standards-to-link.htm

The following is from Pigeon Angels:

As part of “White Dove Releases”, domestic ringneck doves are sometimes mistakenly or cruelly released instead of trained white homing pigeons.

The link below shows photos comparing a domestic white dove (Ringneck Dove) with a white homing pigeon (Rock Dove). http://www.white-dove-releases.com/faq.htm

Please note !
Eye color is not a reliable way to tell the difference between a white dove and a white pigeon. Some white ringneck doves have very dark eyes – such as the Bulleyed White (genetically, a white pied). http://www.dovepage.com/species/domestic/Ringneck/ringneckcolorlist.html

The easiest way to tell the difference between doves and (adult) pigeons is that ringneck doves have no flesh on their bills at all.

If you want to have doves released on a special occassion, then please ensure you book from a professional business that use white racing pigeons not white ringneck doves. There is really no point in marring a special day with animal cruelty (not that animal cruelty is acceptable on any occassion).

Richard’s uncle found a feral pigeon in a carpark that was unable to fly. He picked it up and called us. We collected it that evening and the next day I took it to work (a wildlife rescue centre) for care and treatment.

This is her the day after she was admitted:


10th March

At first she couldn’t lift her wings up very far and could only hop a bit off the ground. She wasn’t particularly ill (droppings fairly normal, no other symptoms). She was very tolerant of being handled and wasn’t afraid of people. She came from a town and was obviouly used to having people around. We named her Misty (a mutation from “Miss T”; the T stands for ‘Tony’ after Richard’s uncle).

Misty received medication and loving care, and two weeks after being rescued she was fit for release. Richard and I wanted her to be released where she was found, however, at the last minute this wasn’t an option so we decided to release her from our home in the hopes that she’d join the flock of pigeons that visit our garden. Here’s her release:

A few days later we recognised her in the feral pigeon flock (by her colouring and behaviour). It’s nice to see her and know she’s found a new family.