Field Guide/Birds/Streptopelia turtur

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Streptopelia turtur (Turtle Dove)
Turtle Dove
Description
The Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur) is a member of the bird family Columbidae, which includes the doves and pigeons.

It is a migratory species with a western Palearctic range, including Turkey and north Africa, though it is rare in northern Scandinavia and Russia; it winters in southern Africa.

In the British Isles, France, and elsewhere in northwestern Europe it is in severe population decline. This is partly because changed farming practices mean that the weed seeds and shoots on which it feeds, are scarcer, and partly due to shooting of birds on migration in Mediterranean countries.

Smaller and slighter in build than other doves, the Turtle Dove may be recognized by its browner color, and the black and white striped patch on the side of its neck, but it is its tail that catches the eye when it flies from the observer; it is wedge shaped, with a dark center and white borders and tips. When viewed from below this pattern, owing to the white under tail coverts obscuring the dark bases, is a blackish chevron on a white ground. This is noticeable when the bird stoops to drink, raising its spread tail.

The mature bird has the head, neck, flanks, and rump blue grey, and the wings cinnamon, mottled with black. The abdomen and under tail coverts are white. The bill is black, the legs and eyerims are red. The black and white patch on the side of the neck is absent in the browner and duller juvenile bird, which also has the legs brown.

The Turtle Dove, one of the latest migrants, rarely appears in Northern Europe before the end of April, returning south again in September.

It is a bird of open rather than dense woodlands, and frequently feeds on the ground. It will occasionally nest in large gardens, but is usually extremely timid, probably due to the heavy hunting pressure it faces on migration. The flight is often described as arrowy, but is not remarkably swift.