Family Pigeons, Doves (Columbidae)


European Turtle-dove (Streptopelia turtur)


French: Tourterelle des bois German: Turteltaube Spanish: Tórtola europea
Other common names: Common Turtle-dove, Isabelline Turtle-dove (rufescens)

Columba Turtur


, 1758,

India; error = England


Related to S. lugens, S. hypopyrrha and S. orientalis. Birds of Nile Valley and Faiyûm have been separated as race isabellina, but claimed differences with rufescens probably sexual; in addition, males of this zone may be dimorphic; Italian birds previously separated as race moltonii, and those of Balearic Is as race loei. Four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. t. turtur (Linnaeus, 1758) – C & S Britain E to Poland and N Russia, S to N Mediterranean coast, and on through Asia Minor and Syria to Kazakhstan and W Siberia; also Canary Is.
  • S. t. arenicola (E. J. O. Hartert, 1894) – Morocco E to Tripoli, and from Iraq and Iran E through Afghanistan, Turkestan and Kyrghyz Steppe to NW China.
  • S. t. hoggara (Geyr von Schweppenburg, 1916) – Ahaggar, Aïr, Tibesti and Ennedi Massifs in S Sahara.
  • S. t. rufescens (C. L. Brehm, 1845) – Kufra Oasis in Libya#R, Dakhla and Kharga Oases in Egypt, as well as Faiyûm, and parts of Nile Valley.
  • Most populations winter in Sahel zone.

    Descriptive notes

    27–29 cm; 99–170 g. Forehead pale bluish grey darkening on crown, nape and hindneck; throat white, sides of face pinkish grey; lower throat and breast mauve-pink... read more


    Song a repeated phrase comprising two low-pitched purring coos, “rrrrhooo....rrrhooo” on the same... read more


    Wide variety of woodland types, as well as steppe and semi-desert; does not inhabit unbroken... read more

    Food and feeding

    Seeds and fruits of weeds and cereals comprise most of diet; seeds taken include those of Brassica, Chenopodium, ... read more


    Starts May in Europe. Nest is flimsy platform of small twigs, lined with grass stems or roots and leaves, placed in a tree, shrub or hedge... read more


    Strongly migratory in most populations, but a few African birds resident in S of breeding range.... read more

    Status and conservation

    VULNERABLE. Widespread and still generally fairly common and numerous, with population of Europe (including Turkey) estimated at 3,150,000–5,940,000 pairs; largest... read more

    Recommended citation

    Baptista, L.F., Trail, P.W., Horblit, H.M., Boesman, P., Sharpe, C.J., Kirwan, G.M. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2019). European Turtle-dove (Streptopelia turtur). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 15 November 2019).