Turtle Dove: Identification, Habitat, and Feeding Guide

Turtle Dove: Identification, Habitat, and Feeding Guide

There cannot be many people who haven’t heard of the festive song regarding the twelve days of Christmas and two turtle doves.

You may ask yourself why these summer migrants to the UK feature in a winter carol but the answer, we think, lies in the fact that turtle doves pair up and form strong bonds with their mate and often pair up for life. Thus, it is seen as a symbol of enduring love, perfect credentials for a religious symbol.

However, turtle doves are in very serious decline and are the UK’s fastest declining bird species with a real threat of extinction. It is thought that habitat loss and disease are the cause of the decline.

Arriving in the UK during April and May, the turtle dove can be found in the south and east of England as well as the lowlands of Wales. Research suggests that adult turtle doves are producing half of the number of chicks than in the 1970s and this is a cause for concern. Unlike other dove species they are granivores – which means their diet is entirely seeds, mainly weed seeds and, as this food source is lacking in the countryside, it means a dietary switch to cereal grains - which may account for some of the reduction in breeding numbers.

Turtle Doves are Europe’s only long-distance migratory dove, spending their winter in sub-Saharan West Africa and undertake a long and dangerous journey to reach Europe and their breeding grounds.

It has an orange-brown and black patterned back, a bluish-grey head, pink chest and three-four black & white stripes that form a pattern on the side of its neck. It is much more coloured than a collared dove and has a lifespan of around two years.

Once in the UK, the turtle dove can be seen in a range of habitats from grassland, towns, gardens, farmland, heathland and moorland searching for cereal and wildflower seeds.

And its name (Streptopelia turtur), is unusual in that it has no connection with turtles – but is in fact down to Latinisation of its purring song, turr turr turr.

The Turtle Dove

As this is now on the red list of species – the highest conservation priority – why not help it along by feeding Dovecote & A1 Mix or Garden Pheasant Mix if you’re lucky enough to live in one of the few areas of the UK that this beautiful dove visits.

Written by Angela


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