Turtle dove

Turtle dove

©Gary Huston

Turtle doves

©Luke Massey/2020VISION

Turtle dove

Scientific name: Streptopelia turtur
The turtle dove is the UK's fastest declining bird species and is on the brink of extinction. A small and pretty pigeon, it breeds in lowland England and winters in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Species information


Length: 26-28cm
Wingspan: 50cm
Weight: 140g
Average lifespan: 2 years

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as Red under the Birds of Conservation Concern 5: the Red List for Birds (2021). Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework. Listed as Vulnerable on the global IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

When to see

April to September


The turtle dove is a small pigeon, just a little bit smaller than collared dove. It breeds in woodlands, orchards and well-wooded parks, mainly in the warmer, drier south and east of the UK. Adults feed on cereal and wildflower seeds, but feed their young 'pigeon milk' - a regurgitated, milky substance from a food-storage organ called a 'crop'.

How to identify

Much more colourful than the collared dove, the turtle dove has an orangey-brown and black patterned back, a blue-grey head, pink chest and three or four black and white stripes forming a patch on the side of the neck. It has a purring 'turrr turrr turr' song (hence its Latin name, Streptopelia turtur), compared to the familiar 'hoo hoooo-hoo' of the collared dove.


Mainly found in south and east England and the lowlands of Wales.

Did you know?

Turtle doves are summer visitors, spending the winter in Sub-Saharan Africa and migrating more than 5,000 km to get there. They undertake a perilous journey - huge numbers are shot as they pass through France, Spain and Morocco, and also when they reach their wintering grounds in Senegal.


Turtle Dove by John Bridges