Species group: Exotic Doves and Pigeons
Other common names: European Turtledove; European Turtle-dove; Turtledove (could also refer to related species)
Scientific name: Streptopelia turtur
The European Turtle Dove is a pleasant, if somewhat nervous, mid-sized species that has a good reputation in England and Europe as a beginner's first exotic dove. They do require a lot of space, preferably an aviary with room for them to perch high as well as low, with some cover for privacy, which makes them a choice for the birdkeeper with plenty of space.
This extremely successful species comprises four subspecies containing possibly as many as 100 million individuals, that can be encountered over a wide area of Europe, Africa, and Asia. This tough pigeon is a migratory bird that travels in large flocks to winter in the pleasant climate of southern Europe and Africa. They can hybridize with other Streptopelia doves, including Ring-necked Doves, so be careful not to inadvertently mix them.
Despite its success in most of the old world, the European Turtle Dove seems to have experienced an unexplained decline in population in the United Kingdom, so the situation is worth watching.
This slim, graceful Streptopelia dove has the profile familiar to those who know the Ring-necked Dove. While the Ring-necked Dove has the half collar around the neck, the male European Turtle Dove has a black and white blaze on each side of the neck. The wings are a bright cinnamon, mottled with black. The female European Turtle Dove is a bit duller.
140 grams (5 oz.)
27 centimeters (10.6 in.)
10 - 15 years
Behavior / temperament:
European Turtle Doves have a reputation for being shy, nervous, and slow to adjust, although they can be very hardy birds once they've settled in. Like many other exotic doves, breeding pairs are territorial, so don't try to colony breed this species. Make it one pair to a flight, or one pair to an exhibit that holds other non-competing species of birds such as ornamental quail. Enjoy listening to the famous coo of the turtledove which has been compared to a purr.
One of the more bashful species, the European Turtle Dove is much more fearful of humans than the more popular species of doves. One breeder says that he gets his best results in aviaries over 10 feet high, allowing his birds the security of being able to perch high and look down on the situation. Each pair should be provided with a large, secure aviary where the beauty of the birds can be enjoyed, while giving them space to retreat. They are relatively cold tolerant, so they can be housed year-round in a properly constructed aviary with access to the outdoors. They are not recommended as cage-birds.
The European Turtle Dove is easy to feed, although it may resist a varied diet. Choose a high quality dove or budgerigar/parakeet mix. One breeder suggests that wild bird seed mix plus safflower will do as the backbone of the diet. But you also need to provide some variety – chopped fruits and vegetables, greens, pellets (perhaps sprinkled with apple juice), and even access to a few live insects can be a good source of vitamins, minerals, and macro-nutrients. However, the insects should be a rare treat, as some breeders report that overfeeding mealworms has caused fatty liver disease in this species. All doves need access to grit and calcium.
Written by Elaine Radford