Family Pigeons, Doves (Columbidae)

Least Concern

Lemon Dove (Aplopelia larvata)


French: Pigeon à masque blanc German: Zimttaube Spanish: Paloma caripálida
Other common names: African Lemon-dove, Cinnamon Dove, São Tomé Lemon-dove (simplex)

Columba Larvata


, 1809,

Knysna, Cape Province


São Tomé race simplex often treated (e.g. HBW) as a full species, because it differs markedly in voice, with playback of calls to birds on Príncipe and African mainland eliciting no response; however, further research is needed to establish the significance of this finding, as part of a review of all currently recognized subspecies. Some authors, in recognizing the two species, have placed all W African populations (and sometimes birds of race jacksoni) in A. simplex (other West African populations differ morphologically in only minor ways from simplex), retaining E & S African birds only in A. larvata; in this case, populations of all Gulf of Guinea islands might be more appropriately placed in A. simplex (but while Pagalu birds are like simplex those on Príncipe more resemble E African taxa). Much confusion and uncertainty too at subspecific level: birds of S Cameroon tend to be somewhat darker and have been designated race plumbescens, but doubtfully valid; Liberian population poorly known, and subspecific identity disputed; birds of Bioko and Pagalu have sometimes been awarded separate races, poensis and hypoleuca respectively. Race samaliyae misspelt samiliyae in HBW. If present species is placed in Columba, name inornata is preoccupied and must be replaced with hypoleuca (if Pagalu birds considered same race as those of mainland); however, with recent transfer of all New World Columba to genus Patagioenas, the synonymy disappears, and inornata would again become the correct name for the W African populations of present species#R. Seven subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • A. l. inornata Reichenow, 1892 – Sierra Leone, SE Guinea, Liberia and W Ivory Coast; SE Nigeria, Cameroon and Gabon, Bioko (Fernando Póo) and Pagalu (Annobón).
  • A. l. principalis (Hartlaub, 1866) – Príncipe.
  • A. l. simplex (Hartlaub, 1849) – São Tomé.
  • A. l. bronzina (Rüppell, 1837) – Eritrea, Ethiopia and SE South Sudan (Boma Hills).
  • A. l. larvata (Temminck, 1809) – S South Sudan through Uganda (absent from Rwenzori), W & S Kenya, W Tanzania (Mt Mahari) and Malawi to South Africa.
  • A. l. jacksoni Sharpe, 1904 – SW Uganda and E DRCongo to W Tanzania (Mt Kungwe).
  • A. l. samaliyae#R C. M. N. White, 1948 – Angola and NW Zambia.
  • Descriptive notes

    25–29 cm; male 130–210 g, female 85–191 g. Forehead, face and throat white to greyish white merging into pinkish-rufous neck and breast; nape, hindneck,... read more


    A monotonous series of 10–50 similar low notes “hoot-hoot-hoot-hoot-”, often rising slightly in... read more


    Lowland and montane evergreen forest including partially degraded areas; also frequents plantations... read more

    Food and feeding

    Shows certain preference for fruit of Calodendron capense; also seeds of bamboo, Podocarpus and Kiggelaria africana... read more


    Timing varies regionally: Feb, Apr, Nov in Sierra Leone; early Feb on São Tomé; Jan, Aug, Oct in Cameroon; Mar–Apr in... read more


    Resident, but minor altitudinal movements have been noted in Liberia (on Mt Nimba), coastal... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Has been considered Near Threatened in E Africa. Relatively secretive in habits, making status difficult to assess accurately; however, generally... read more

    Recommended citation

    Baptista, L.F., Trail, P.W., Horblit, H.M., Kirwan, G.M. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2020). Lemon Dove (Aplopelia larvata). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 21 January 2020).