By Dr Colin Walker BSc, BVSc, MRCVS, MACVSc (Avian health)

I have been breeding Superb Fruit Doves (Ptilinopus superbus) and Rose Crown Fruit Doves (Ptilinopus regina) for about 15 years. The birds are kept in two large (6mX6mX2.5m) planted aviaries. One of these aviaries in January 2012 held approximately 16 Rose Crowns (with approximately equal numbers of cocks and hens) and also two Superb cocks. No Superb hens had been in the aviary for over six months. Fruit dove breeding in Melbourne is very weather dependant. No nests or chicks will be produced sometimes for months and then depending on the weather (usually long warm days with rain) as many as six pairs throughout the two aviaries will build nests and start to breed. In February 2012 four pairs built nests. Ptilinopus Fruit Doves lay one egg per clutch. Of these four nests, one was unsuccessful but three chicks were fledged from the other nests. As one chick started to mature it began to develop some feather characteristics of a male Superb. As the bird has matured throughout 2012 it has continued to develop Superb characteristics and is clearly a hybrid. The photos say it all. The bird has a wide black band in the middle of the chest similar to a Superb cock. The feathers behind this band are not white as in a Superb but rather are lime green. There is no sign of the brown cape around the neck of a Superb cock but rather the silvery neck feathers of a Rose Crown. The ‘crown’ extends further onto the back of the head than a Rose Crown but not as far as in a Superb and is a maroon colour midway between the purple colour of the Superb and the crimson colour of the Rose Crown. The yellow tip of the tail feathers, seen in the Rose Crown, is present but in a diluted form, while the black tips on the wing coverts of the Superb are present but are much less prominent. After an extensive literature search in both the avicultural, scientific and veterinary literature I can find no record of this hybrid being recorded and indeed would be interested to hear from anyone who has knowledge of such a hybrid being produced before. Speaking to Dr. Andrew Peters who has a special interest in Australian columbid genetics, he has explained that although Rose Crown and Superb Fruit Doves share many characteristics and are in the same genus, Ptilinopus, they are actually genetically quite distinct, having thought to have diverged in an evolutionary sense some 25 million years ago. This young bird, obviously a cock is now 10 months old and is showing the behavioural characteristics of a young male fruit dove displaying to Rose Crown hens in the aviary. Although hybridisation should always be discouraged I find the production of this bird although accidental, interesting and it appears it is an unusual occurrence worth recording.

  Rose Crown cock

  Superb Cock

Rose crown cock with chick  

  Rose crown sub adult

  Superb hen with chick   

  Hybrid June 2012

 Hybrid October 2012

  Fruit doves having the morning feed

  Hybrid January 2013