What a Dove Bird Looks Like

Not all doves sport white plumage.
Not all doves sport white plumage. (Image: David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Those powder-white birds released at weddings and other special occasions aren't the only kind of dove. In fact, approximately 300 species of doves and pigeons exist around the world, each species with its own distinct features. Some of the most common species are mourning doves, rock doves and various release doves, which are all highly recognizable in their respective elements.

Universal Characteristics

The hundreds of species of doves have some features in common. For example, all doves have relatively stout and compact bodies, and they all have small heads. Dove beaks are always blunt and short, no matter the species.


Dove species have varying color combinations. For example, the white-winged dove has gray feathers with white accents, red feet and a distinct patch of blue around the eye. The African collared dove has an overall cream color with a black band around the neck and pink feet. This is just one example of how different two species of dove can look, making it difficult to describe doves in general in definite, all-encompassing terms -- instead, their appearances must be described on a species-by-species basis.

Mourning Dove

The mourning dove is a relatively common species; in some states like Arizona the species is an exceptionally common game bird. Less stout than some other dove species, this bird has less prominent features -- in addition to his sleeker body, his head is relatively small and his tail tapers to a distinct point. Mourning doves are typically brown, as well, though they may be adorned with green accents around the neck and pink around the breast.

Rock Dove

The rock dove goes by a more common name: the pigeon. The common domestic pigeon doesn't bear the pristine white coloring commonly associated with other dove species. Instead, his feathers are mostly gray, with green speckles around his neck, black stripes around his tail and pinkish feet with black nails. His hair has a distinct bluish-gray shade. The species is easily recognized on city streets, where they scavenge for scraps.

Release Dove

The stereotypical white dove is colloquially known as a release dove, though this isn't a scientific name -- in fact, release doves can be of several different types. They are frequently white homing pigeons, which can be differentiated from their similarly featured relatives, white ringneck doves. White ringneck doves are better-suited for display than for release: They are smaller, they have red eyes, and they do not know how to find their way home. White homing pigeons, on the other hand, have dark eyes and are trained to return home to the nest after being released-- this way, commercial release dove suppliers can use the same doves over and over.

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