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(European) Turtle Dove

Turtle Dove
Both sexes: Chestnut upperparts and pink breast and white belly.

The Turtle Dove is smaller than a Collared Dove.

The head is blue-grey with a black and white patch on the side of the neck. The throat and breast are pale pink and the belly white. The wings and back have black and chestnut tortoiseshell-like markings, but this is not why it's called the Turtle Dove.

The yellow eye is surrounded by orange-coloured skin. The bill is black and the legs pink.

Juveniles are duller and browner, have no neck patch, and buff-coloured breast.

Scientific Name Streptopelia turtur
Length 25-27 cm (10-11")
Wing Span 49-55 cm (19½-22")
Weight 130-180 g (4½-6½ oz)
Breeding Pairs 75000
Present Summer
Status Red

Distribution map - when and where you are most likely to see the species.


The Turtle Doves song is a soothing deep, cat-like purring, "turr-turr", and this gives the bird its name.

Alarm Call

© Jean Roché,


Turtle Doves feed almost entirely on the fruits and seeds of wild flowers and cereals, such as buttercup and chickweed.


Turtle Doves breed in open country with trees or scrub, or at the edge of woodland areas, parks and large gardens. Like the nests of most pigeons, the Turtle Dove's nest is a flimsy platform of fine twigs.

The white oval eggs are smooth and glossy, and about 30 mm by 23 mm in size. Both parents share the duty of incubating the eggs and feeding the nestlings.

Breeding Starts Clutches Eggs Incubation (days) Fledge (days)
April-May 2-3 2 13-14 19-21


The Turtle Dove is a summer visitor to mainly southern and eastern England, arriving in April-May, and returning to tropical Africa for the winter in July-August.


From 1970 the Turtle Dove population has plummeted by nearly 80% and is a species of high conservation concern (Red List).

The cause of the decline is believed to be down to the birds not finding food and the loss of suitable nesting sites (e.g. overgrown hedges), but Turtle Dove is also one of the species that are shot in large numbers in and around the Mediterranean during their spring migration.