A longtime trend on the west coast now appearing more frequently on the east coast, white dove releases are taking flight. More and more people are finding that a dove release will add just the right touch of festivity to a wedding or a worthy tribute to a memorial of their loved one. Although a dove release takes relatively little time, the preparation needed for something so seemingly simple would surprise most people.

Preparation

To start providing dove releases, good quality birds must be obtained. It’s very important to note that only Rock Doves (Columba livia) should be released as opposed to the Ringneck doves (Streptopelia risoria) commonly found in pet stores. As the birds used for releases are bred primarily for their white color, this causes them to have somewhat less developed navigational abilities compared to their multicolored cousins. Therefore, ideal breeding produces a bird that maintains a white-colored plumage, while still having potential to be trained to travel many miles. An acceptable compromise can be attained through careful selection and breeding. To facilitate in keeping breeding records, a seamless band is slipped on the bird around a week after hatching. This band has the year of birth and a unique number that is then written down in a record keeping book. With time, after a sufficient amount of data has been compiled, it is possible to selectively breed for the optimal combination of homing abilities and desirable white color.

The health of the release dove is of utmost importance. In addition to having plenty of fresh air and sunshine, clean water and good quality feed is an absolute necessity. A top quality feed contains grains like Canada Peas, Small Yellow Corn, Red Milo, Safflower, and Maple Peas, among others. In addition, we add natural supplements to our water daily to keep our birds in top shape! Also essential is a well-ventilated and maintained loft, with the aviary facing east to catch the rays of the morning sun.

Training White Doves For Release

White doves being trained

Few doves used for releases will come back if they haven’t been trained. To train the doves to come back to their loft, they are first released after they’ve been weaned and are feeding on their own. They are usually very cautious at this point and will gingerly stick around without flying off anywhere. Young doves at this age are very comical, at times sometimes acting scared of everything, yet still very inquisitive. They will tilt their heads to the side when seeing something new, and you can almost see them thinking as they try to figure out what they’re looking at. Eventually, they take off and join their fellows in the sky, where their continuous circling is an inspiring sight to behold.

After a few weeks of flying around the loft, they are ready to begin their training. Training is done by putting them in a basket, taking them out a mile from the loft, and releasing them. They will usually circle around and then make their way back to their loft. To encourage them to fly home promptly, be sure to have food waiting for them when they get back! This and other training techniques form good habits in the birds that will later be essential for their safety as they navigate the miles to the safe haven of their loft.

After being released from the same point three times, the doves are then taken to the 5 mile mark in the same direction. It’s at this point that their navigational abilities, still scientifically unexplained, begin to show as they find their way home from an area outside their usual whereabouts. hey are taken out to 5 miles three times, just as is done for the distance of one mile. Then, the process repeats itself for 15, 20, 25, and all the way up to 100 miles in some cases. However, 50 miles is the standard radius for dove releases. This should be done in every direction that the doves are to be released, and although there are cases of birds coming back without having been trained in a certain direction, it usually takes them longer.

Prior to to the dove release, the doves go on a special diet that boosts their performance during the release itself. This also minimizes the chance of the bird soiling those releasing it. From our experience, there is very little chance of that happening and it is has not taken place once at the time of this writing. We tell people that are worried about the possibility of an accident that they are already taking a chance by having their event outside. After all, birds in the wild have the complete freedom to fly over and cause a potentially unpleasant occurrence!

The doves are also given opportunity to take baths which, needless to say, they absolutely enjoy! The older birds jump in especially quickly while the younger ones take their time getting accustomed to this new activity. After dunking themselves several times, they then start preening themselves, taking their time till everything is in place. At times, special bath salts are put in the water for a more thorough cleaning job.

The White Dove Release

When it comes time to actually release the doves, there are two ways to do so: either by hand or from a basket or cage. While the hand release is recommended because of the extra special touch that it adds, releasing from a heart-shaped basket or chapel-shaped cage is not in any way inferior for people not used to holding live birds.

For a hand release to be effective, the birds must be held in a special way to show as much of the bird as is possible. This is done by positioning the tail between the thumb and index finger and the legs between the middle and and ring fingers. The other hand supports the dove from the bottom. This position is one that’s most comfortable for the bird, while at the same time allowing for a good bit of the bird to be visible so that good shots can be obtained by the photographers and/or videographers. Holding a bird by the sides will make it think it can free itself by struggling a bit harder, often resulting in a premature release, which would be quite disappointing!

Holding doves in preparation for a dove release

It’s important to ensure that a trained handler be present during the hand release to hand the doves to those who will be releasing them. The handler’s job requires quite a bit of practice so that no birds escape when being taken out of the basket and to ensure the birds are probably placed in the hands, as previously mentioned.
The route of using a basket or a cage to release the doves can also be taken and can add variety that a hand release cannot. There are many styles and sizes of baskets available to accommodate different quantities of doves, from one to over twenty. For smaller baskets, heart-shaped ones are typically used, with square and rectangle shapes preferable for larger baskets. Looking at our Pinterest page, one can see some of our selection of baskets and cages, which can be decorated to suit upon request.

In conclusion, a quality dove release takes much dedication, hard work, and preparation to create something that appears simple, yet is very elegant. We would advise those looking to release for a dove release at their event to make sure to choose quality and value. The memories created will be impressed in the minds of all those privileged to witness the white doves take to the skies, disappearing from sight into the horizon.