Turtle dove (Streptopelia turtur)

Turtle dove pair
Loading more images and videos...

Turtle dove fact file

Turtle dove description

GenusStreptopelia (1)

The small, delicate turtle dove (Streptopelia turtur) is slightly larger than a blackbird. It has dark black and chestnut upper parts with a white belly and pink breast. The flight is characterised by flickering wing beats interspersed by short glides. The scientific name turtur comes from the soft 'turr turr' call (2).

Tourterelle des bois.
Length: 26-28 cm (2)

Turtle dove biology

Adult turtle doves feed on the ground, mainly on cereal and wildflower seeds and the occasional insect. During the first five days of life the young are fed on 'crop-milk' which the parents regurgitate. They then eat small seeds and insects.

Turtle doves return from their wintering grounds around late April and immediately start nesting. The nests are usually made in hedges or scrub, two broods may be produced in the season each consisting of two eggs. Both parents share the incubation and feeding duties (2).


Turtle dove range

The turtle dove is a widespread summer migrant throughout Europe, common in the central and southern European lowlands (2). The UK is the northern edge of its range, where it is found mainly in the south and east. This species spends the winter in sub-Saharan Africa (2).

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.

Turtle dove habitat

Mainly found in lowland agricultural land with copses, large hedgerows, and orchards near to cereal or weedy fields. Dry sunny habitats are preferred by the turtle dove but it can also be found on heathland, and in gardens and parks (2).


Turtle dove status

The turtle dove is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1). It is listed on the Birds of Conservation Concern Red List and Annex II of the EC Birds Directive. Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Turtle dove threats

The UK population of turtle doves fell by 60 percent between 1966-72 and 1988-91. At the same time many other farmland bird species also suffered massive declines. The reasons for these declines are thought to be the widespread changes in agricultural practices that have occurred since the Second World War. These changes include the increased use of herbicides and pesticides, reducing food availability, and the removal of hedgerows and scrub which has removed nesting sites. Further threats to this species occur outside the UK on the long migration to Africa and after arrival. It is shot in huge numbers during migration through France, Spain and Morocco and in the wintering grounds mainly in Senegal (3).


Turtle dove conservation

Little conservation action has been targeted at the turtle dove, as it was not recognised as a species for conservation concern until recently (3). Agri-environment schemes, such as the Countryside Stewardship Scheme, should benefit this species by encouraging the retention of winter stubble fields. The turtle dove is a priority species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP); the plan aims to halt the decline by 2003 and promote a sustained recovery (3).

There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.
The UK Biodiversity Action Plan for this species is available at UK BAP.
View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

For more information on the turtle dove and other bird species:



Information authenticated by the RSPB:



Agri-environment schemes
These schemes allow the government to compensate farmers for using methods that benefit the environment. The two main initiatives in the UK are the Countryside Stewardship Scheme and Environmentally Sensitive Areas. Since October 2000 these have formed part of the England Rural Development Programme (EDRP), administered by DEFRA, the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs. For more on these initiatives see: http://www.defra.gov.uk/erdp/erdphome.htm
The act of incubating eggs, that is, keeping them warm so that development is possible.


  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2011)
  2. RSPB (November 2001)
  3. UK Biodiversity (November 2001)

Image credit

Turtle dove pair  
Turtle dove pair

© Wild Wonders of Europe / Varesvuo / naturepl.com

Nature Picture Library
5a Great George Street
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 117 911 4675
Fax: +44 (0) 117 911 4699


Link to this photo

Arkive species - Turtle dove (Streptopelia turtur) Embed this Arkive thumbnail link ("portlet") by copying and pasting the code below.

Terms of Use - The displayed portlet may be used as a link from your website to Arkive's online content for private, scientific, conservation or educational purposes only. It may NOT be used within Apps.

Read more about



MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite Arkive images and videos and share them with friends.

Play the Team WILD game:

Team WILD, an elite squadron of science superheroes, needs your help! Your mission: protect and conserve the planet’s species and habitats from destruction.

Conservation in Action

Which species are on the road to recovery? Find out now »

This species is featured in:

This species is featured in the Mediterranean Basin eco-region

This species is featured in:

This species is affected by global climate change. To learn about climate change and the species that are affected, visit our climate change pages.

Help us share the wonders of the natural world. Donate today!


Back To Top