A bird in the hand.

Posted by Russ Kennedy on




We shared in the article “Animal Acts” tips and ideas of having animals in your show. Now I would like to give a more behind the scenes look at the day to day business of keeping animals, specifically doves.

How it all began:

A question I’m often asked is “what made me decide to put birds in the act?” Truthfully, although I had always enjoyed bird routines in a magic show, I never thought of using them myself. One day while chatting with one of my magician friends the topic of bird acts came up, he informed me that he had performed bird magic in the past but had recently sold them off as he was no longer doing stage shows and switching to restaurant magic. He did have one little guy that he couldn’t sell because he wasn’t pure white like most doves used for magic acts but had more of a sandy color with some white spots. This happens from time to time in the breeding process he explained. My friend continued; “he is a wonderful bird, perhaps you would like to take him home as a pet.” So when I brought this little guy home, my two oldest children (who were still young at the time) thought this was the coolest thing ever and insisted he have a name, due to his coloring they called him Dusty.

Jared and Dusty

Jared and Dusty

Pictured above is my son Jared, then about 3 years old, and our first dove Dusty.

Learning the rules:

We found Dusty to be quite friendly and that he liked being held, however as a bird he also enjoyed flying. A quick visit from my friend and he showed how to safely trim the feathers so Dusty could fly but only a short distance, more of a flutter. This is a common practice with many bird owners so that the bird does not fly away and get harmed.

Doves are very docile and the shape of their beak does not allow them to bite even if they so desired. Doves are very easy to care for in comparison to some other breeds, they are very hearty and don’t get separation anxiety like more exotic breeds. A healthy dove can live easily 10 to 15 years, some even longer. They can with stand colder temperatures but I don’t leave them out in extreme cold.

Make sure they have a cage large enough to spread their wings and hop about, having perches at different heights allows them a little exercise while in the cage. We do take them out for a good stretch and human contact regularly, this keeps them form getting shy around people. They also enjoy a light misting of water from a spray bottle, especially when it’s warm outside.

Like any bird, doves can be messy so take this into consideration when it comes to the area where you place the cage.  Two things doves do plenty of is eat and poop. My doves primarily will eat a wild bird seed blend available at most pet supply shops. Food is important of course, but water is even more so, birds will die of dehydration faster than starvation.

Aren’t they noisy?

All birds sing and make noise, I find doves to be relaxing as they don’t squawk but coo and even make a sound that is like a laugh. In the warmer months my birds live in an outdoor structure and my neighbors enjoy hearing them sing.

Dusty in the act:

Already employing a dove pan in my show for producing items like a sponge birthday cake, it was easy to bring Dusty into the show. I didn’t have to buy a bunch of new props or invest in other bird apparatus for producing doves from my person as I was just going to keep it simple. Because of his friendly nature Dusty would do a meet and greet after the show allowing the audience to get a closer look,  at smaller shows I would allow a guest or two to hold him, making sure everyone used hand sanitizer afterwards.

The family grew:


Nesting parents.

Nesting parents.

I had other friends in the magic community who raised doves to sell for magic acts, they had a little fella with splayed wings, which is to say not smooth. He obviously would not find a home in a show so they asked if he would be welcomed with us, having a soft spot for critters in need I said yes. Because of his crazy bed head looking wings he donned the name”Scruffy”, having young children all animals must have a name, even goldfish. My friends also sent along his girlfriend and “Sweetie” so the little guy wouldn’t be lonely. Well Scruffy and Sweetie weren’t lonely and did what birds do…. and before you could say Alacazam we were up to our eyes in doves. At most I think we had 15 at one time, and had more cages to accommodate the brood. My bird act did grow but we’ll save that story for another time. To help with the growing populating I sold a few doves to magician friends here and there. The important thing to share with you is to always have cages big enough to avoid crowding, fortunately doves are communal birds and we seldom had squabbles.

Birds as a life lesson: 


Babies about a week old.

Babies about a week old.

For my children this has truly been a great experience and a means to help explain nature including the “birds and the bees.” Over the years obviously some of the birds have passed on and have helped my children deal with loss.  We have been down to two doves “Buster and Snowflake” for a few years now but they just hatched two little babies recently. This was actually the inspiration to write this article. My youngest two children (soon to be 13) don’t quite recall the birth process of earlier years, so they are very excited for this. As I said, we have learned to deal with loss and sadly one of the little birds recently hatched did not make it much past a week, but the other one is doing great hopping around and has almost all it’s feathers. Although not cooing yet, this little one loves to flap it’s wings and peep to mom and dad. The newest member of the family has been named “Marshmallow Peep” and is growing quickly, soon this little one will be as big as mom and dad.  We will share more photos on Facebook in the weeks to come so you can see the progress.

Buster, Marshmallow and Snowflake.

Snowflake, Marshmallow and Buster.

Jared, Chelsea, and Sarah

Jared, Chelsea, and Sarah

Jared has been the official bird wrangler of the act for many years but recently has been teaching his younger sisters the tricks of the trade.

As you may have guessed, the critters in my show are just as much pets as they are a form of entertainment, which makes it that much more fun when I have them in a show.



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