The Turtle Dove is a small, slender-looking bird which is common across much of Europe during the summer months. Usually shy, it is found in woodlands, plantations and bushy hedgerows, but can be a visitor to large urban or rural gardens.
Turtle Doves usually arrive in Britain in mid April to early May, and stay in this country until mid to late September. At coastal sites in spring, hundreds can be encountered in a day, pouring in off the sea after their long migration from Africa.
Small-headed, with a slim body, long graduated tail and variegated plumage, the Turtle Dove is a delightful and distinctive little pigeon. Its soft and deep purring ‘rrooorrr rrooorrr’ song, often repeated for long periods, can be heard throughout late spring and early summer.
The head shows a delicate grey cast to the forehead, crown and nape, with a buffy-pink face. The neck shows several black bars with distinctive white edges. The mantle is tawny-brown, fading into a slate-grey rump and dark closed tail. The wing is rich chestnut with bold black feather centres, with the exception of a grey forewing and dark flight feathers.
The breast is pinkish-grey, fading to off-white or pale grey on the flanks and belly. The bill is pale-based and blacktipped. The eye is orange with a rich red orbital ring. The legs and feet are reddishbrown.
When seen from below, the appearance of the Turtle Dove is very striking. The pale grey head and pink breast contrast with the dark grey and black underwings and the black and white tail. Notice again the black
central tail feathers.
The upperwing view of the Turtle Dove is very different from the underwing view. Grey, chestnut, black and white all clash in a flurry of colour. Particularly striking is the tail pattern – grey central feathers, fading to brown and then black, with broad white tips except on the central tail feathers.
Juvenile Turtle Doves show a buffy head, no neck bars and more subdued duller brown ring markings. The wings also show less grey, while the breast is far more buffy than the adult’s.