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A photo of a European Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur)
European Turtle Dove

European Turtle Dove

Streptopelia turtur

The European Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur), is a member of the Columbidae family, which encompasses doves and pigeons. This delicate bird is smaller and slighter than many of its relatives, with a length of 26–28 cm, a wingspan of 47–53 cm, and a weight ranging from 100–156 g. It is distinguishable by its browner hue and the distinctive black-and-white-striped patch on the side of its neck. The tail is wedge-shaped, with a dark center and white borders and tips, which becomes evident as the bird takes flight.

Identification Tips

Adult European turtle doves have blue-grey heads, necks, flanks, and rumps, with cinnamon wings mottled with black. The breast is a vinaceous color, while the abdomen and under tail coverts are white. The bill is black, and the legs and eye rims are a striking red. Juveniles are browner and duller, lacking the neck patch, and have brown legs.

Habitat

The turtle dove favors open woodlands over dense forests and is often found feeding on the ground. It can occasionally be seen nesting in large gardens but is generally very timid.

Distribution

This migratory species has a range that spans the western Palearctic, including most of Europe and the Middle East, extending to Turkey and north Africa. It is a late migrant, arriving in Northern Europe no earlier than the end of April and departing for its wintering grounds south of the Sahara in September.

Behaviour

The European turtle dove is known for its nuptial flight, which is high and circling, similar to that of the common wood pigeon but with less pronounced undulations. Its flight is described as arrowy. The bird's arrival in spring is marked by its cooing or purring song, a deep, vibrating "turrr, turrr."

Song & Calls

The turtle dove's song is a distinctive and soothing "turrr, turrr," which resonates through the woodlands in the springtime, signaling its presence.

Similar Species

The European turtle dove may be confused with other doves in the genus Streptopelia, such as the Oriental turtle dove and the dusky turtle dove, but can be distinguished by its unique coloration and neck patch.

Diet and Feeding

The turtle dove feeds on weed seeds and shoots, with a particular fondness for fumitory. Changes in farming practices have made these food sources scarcer.

Conservation status

The European turtle dove is classified as Vulnerable, with populations in rapid decline across Europe. The decline has been attributed to habitat loss, changes in agriculture, hunting pressures during migration, and possibly competition with the collared dove and disease. Conservation efforts are ongoing to address these threats.

European Turtle Dove Sounds


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European Turtle Dove Fun Facts

Did you know?
In many Eurpean cultures, the European Turtle Dove represents love and fidelity.

European Turtle Doves on Birda

Sightings

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