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 4: 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.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts work closely with farmers and landowners to ensure that our wildlife is protected and to promote wildlife-friendly practices. By working together, we can create Living Landscapes: networks of habitats stretching across town and country that allow wildlife to move about freely and people to enjoy the benefits of nature. Support this greener vision for the future by joining your local Wildlife Trust.


Turtle Dove by John Bridges