The Bar-shouldered dove is a medium-sized, long-tailed dove. Adults doves have a blue-grey head, neck and upper breast, with a distinctive reddish-bronze patch on the hindneck, with dark barring. Young doves lack this patch and barring and tend to be duller overall. There is also a distinctive pinkish bar on the lower breast. The lower body is pale. They have a blue-grey eye-ring and reddish eye. They are usually seen in pairs or small parties. The northern subspecies hedlandi is lighter in colour. This species is also known as the Mangrove Dove, Scrub Dove, or Kookawook.


Bar-shouldered doves are found in humid and well-wooded regions of north-western, northern and eastern Australia from near Onslow in Western Australia to Bega in New South Wales, as well as in southern New Guinea. The subspecies hedlandi is restricted to the Pilbara region. Bar-shouldered doves are found in woodland with a grassy understorey and in nearby open areas, usually near water. They are also often found in mangroves and are frequently seen in urban areas. Bar-shouldered doves are sedentary and there is no evidence of major seasonal movements. Bar-shouldered doves have benefitted from clearing for agriculture and are common in urban areas in the Top End region (far northern Australia).


Bar-shouldered doves feed on the ground in short grass near cover. They need to drink throughout the day. They mainly eat seeds of grasses, herbs and sedges, as well as rhizomes (small root storages).


The nest of the bar-shouldered Dove is usually hidden in dense shrubs or trees and in gardens, throughout its range. A thin platform is made from twigs and roots and is placed in a fork or on a branch. Both parents incubate the eggs and feed the chicks. Young doves are fed with ‘crop milk’, specially produced by the parent birds (a common characteristic of pigeons and doves).