Even in ancient times, the turtledove was considered a symbol of love, purity, and peace. This graceful bird with a curious character can be found not only on the street, but also in a human dwelling — she took one of the main places in the ranking of pets. Thanks to its interesting exterior, the Gorlinka is a frequenter of all kinds of competitions, pigeon shows.

Origin of the species and description

Photo: Turtle Dove

Photo: Turtledove

Dove — This is a genus of birds from a small family of pigeons. From the ancient Greek language, its name is translated as “dove with a necklace.”

The turtledove subfamily includes 16 separate species, and only 5 of them are found on the territory of Russia:

  • ringed turtledove;
  • common;
  • short-tailed;
  • large;
  • small turtledove.

Video: Turtledove

All 16 species form a fairly uniform group of birds with common features. The closest relatives of pigeons and doves were dodos, which became extinct in the 17th century due to human fault. For all the time, researchers have discovered very few fossil remains of these birds. There was an opinion that turtledoves, like all pigeons, have family ties with parrots and grouse. However, later, after a more thorough analysis of the evolutionary chain, the researchers agreed that the reason for the external similarity of these birds was convergent evolution, a similar diet, and not a general evolution.

Turtledoves, wild pigeons were domesticated for more than 5 thousand years ago. Some varieties were bred only for decorative purposes, while others found practical use. The first mention of these birds was found in sacred texts when describing the global flood.

Interesting fact: The Laughing Dove is a caged bird and is not known in nature.

Appearance and Features

Photo: What a turtledove looks like

Photo: What a turtledove looks like

Dove — this is a bird that is very similar to the common rock dove, but more graceful, with a characteristic color for each species. Depending on the variety, the body length of an adult can reach 23-35 centimeters, and weight 120-300 grams. The dove differs from the dove not only in its elegance, but also in its rounded tail and red paws.

The plumage of the upper body of the common dove is colored in brown tones, some feathers have white, beige edges. The neck of the bird is decorated with black and white stripes, which are very similar to a necklace. Doves are new-palatine birds and their upper jaw can move freely relative to the entire skull. The color of the eyes is combined with the plumage, it can be either black or dark red.

Peculiarities of the appearance of some species of doves:

  • great turtledove — the largest member of this genus. The average body length of adults is 34-35 cm, and the weight is about 300 grams. It is easy to recognize the large turtledove by the brown upper body and pinkish belly. The black and white necklace is heavily shifted back;
  • ringed — this species is distinguished by a longer tail, which can be equal to half the total body length and reach 14-16 cm. The smoky-pink color of the head, neck and chest is combined with a gray back. The collared turtledove necklace is very bright;
  • brilliant — lives only in Australia, and in Russia it is kept exclusively at home. This variety is small in size – about 20 centimeters with a weight of no more than 50 grams. The plumage is ash blue with a scattering of white spots, and the outer side of the wings is painted dark gray;
  • The turtle dove is not sexually dimorphic, only sometimes the males are larger.

Where does the turtle dove live?

Photo: Turtle dove in Russia

Photo: Turtle dove in Russia

Doves are widely distributed throughout the world. They inhabit the whole of Eurasia, Africa, some species were brought to Australia, America and successfully took root there. Over the past 100 years, the ringed dove has significantly expanded its habitat and continues to occupy new territories, preferring the anthropogenic landscape.

The habitat of the turtledove depends on its species: spotted, ringed, large turtledove and several other species like to settle in city parks, squares, in the attics of residential buildings closer to humans, but can be found in forests. For the small turtle dove, the city is the only habitat, it is not afraid of people, it is very easily tamed.

Emerald, wild laughing turtledove, African live exclusively in deciduous or mixed forests away from settlements. For these birds, it is very important to have free access to any body of water. Representatives of the northern habitat winter in Africa, mainly in the Sahara and Sudan. The turtledoves living in countries with a warm climate do not make annual migrations, lead a sedentary lifestyle.

Interesting fact: Some species of turtledoves living in settlements often place their nests directly on traffic lights, poles in the middle of busy city streets and they are not at all afraid of traffic noise.

What do turtledoves eat?

Photo: Turtle dove

Photo: Turtle dove

There are absolute vegetarians among turtle doves and those who prefer a mixed diet.

The habitual diet of these birds may include:

  • many types of insects, including parasites, dangerous to humans and animals;
  • small invertebrates, insect larvae;
  • grains of hemp, wheat, buckwheat;
  • seeds of alder, birch, other trees and shrubs.


A favorite delicacy of many species of these birds is sunflower. Gorlinka can cause significant damage to crops, completely pecking out seeds from the baskets of this oilseed. Other bird grains are collected exclusively from the surface of the earth, without disturbing the plants themselves. Despite the fact that turtledoves can sometimes attack sunflower crops, they can also help farmers by pecking at weed seeds that “smother” crops.

When bred in an aviary, the birds are unpretentious in nutrition and do not differ in particular voracity, but they need a sufficiently large amount of water to drink daily, since without it they cannot even last a day.

An interesting fact: Among the Slavic peoples, the appearance of a pair of doves next to a dwelling is considered a favorable sign, promising a quick resolution of all existing problems. Turtle doves, not common doves, were also the first postal birds.

Character and lifestyle features

Photo: Common Turtle Dove

Photo: Turtledove

These birds of paradise are not just considered a symbol of love and fidelity. Having formed a pair, turtledoves remain faithful to their partner all their lives. Some species of these birds, after the death of their “spouse”, never unite with other partners and refuse to continue the genus.

Doves differ in constancy and in choosing a place for laying eggs. They return to the same nest year after year, but on the condition that the predators could not get to it. Both parents incubate the chicks. At the end of summer or in early September, migratory species of turtle doves migrate to the African continent in small groups of two dozen individuals, and return only by May.

Interesting fact: All turtledoves are large “talkers” . They constantly coo, walk, laugh, make various sounds, but they always do it very loudly. This feature is one of the few downsides to their home content.

Turtlenecks are very sensitive to stress. If a bird living in an aviary is frightened, then it will beat against the cage with such force that injuries cannot be avoided. They also cannot be let out of the cage so that they fly freely around the room, because due to stress they begin to fly at great speed and crash into pieces of furniture, walls. Birds are calmer in their natural habitat.

Social Structure and Reproduction

Photo: Collared Dove

Photo: Ringed turtledove

In one season, the turtledove can lay several clutches of 1-2 eggs, especially those individuals who live in warmer climates. The nesting period for these birds is long. It often happens that some couples are already incubating eggs, while others are just starting to build a nest. These birds nest on the edges, in the forest belt, parks.

Their flat and not very strong nests are usually located on the branches of trees, among their roots, in the bush, but there may be completely unexpected places — lamppost, fence or traffic light. For their construction, turtledoves use brushwood, grass, and in urban conditions it can even be wire.

Interesting fact: Dove nests are not built every year, preferring to use one for several years in a row. With each year of use, the nests become stronger, as the droppings of the chicks act like cement.

A married couple of doves incubate the eggs in turn for 14-16 days. The chicks appear completely helpless. Parents take care of them for a long time and selflessly protect them, not leaving the nest to the end even in case of great danger. Young growth usually rises on the wing by the end of the third week of life, then the chicks quickly become independent. They gather in flocks of 8-10 individuals and are ready for breeding in a year.

Natural enemies of the turtledove

Photo: What an eagle looks like

Photo: What an eagle looks like

Under natural conditions, turtledoves live for about 6-7 years and most often die in the claws or in the mouth of predators.

They have many enemies:

  • almost all birds of prey;
  • foxes, dogs, cats and other predators that can prey on both adults and young animals, destroy nests.

Some species of doves are a subject for hunting. A large number of chicks die in the first week after birth. They often fall out of their nests, and since they do not know how to fly, they become someone’s prey and their parents cannot help them in any way. It is precisely because of the low survival rate of young stock that many turtledoves carry out not one, but several clutches per season.

Man can also be called the enemy of these birds of paradise. For many decades, some types of turtledoves were actively hunted traditionally, especially in their wintering areas, where they flew in large numbers. Human economic activity also has its negative impact on their population. The fields are treated with various chemicals, and since grain is part of the habitual diet of these birds, they are the very first to suffer.

An interesting fact: Under artificially created conditions, turtledoves can live up to the age of twenty and regularly produce offspring.

Species population and status

Photo: Eagle bird

Photo: Eagle bird

In the middle of the last century, the population of doves in Russia was estimated by ornithologists at 1.7-2.9 million individuals, and today their number has decreased by more than half. In some regions of the country, only single pairs of these birds are found. Despite the catastrophically rapid decline in the turtledove population, it has not yet been listed in the Red Book of Russia, and is protected only in a number of regions. Specialists are sounding the alarm, trying to draw attention to that problem. The turtledove was even declared bird of the year 2019.

According to ornithologists, in order to preserve the population, turtle doves need to breed as many chicks as possible, and for this it is necessary to create favorable conditions in their nesting areas. This species should be strongly protected in the wintering regions of Russia, a ban on shooting turtle doves should be introduced until their numbers stop decreasing at such a frightening pace.

Interesting fact: Ornithologists declare the inadmissibility of crossing wild species of turtledoves and domestic pigeons, since the relationship will lead to dangerous mutations with a fatal outcome. Birds form pairs on their own, and there is no need to interfere in this process. In addition, the lifespan of a wild turtledove is much longer than that of pigeons, which means that their entire gene system can completely change in their chicks, which is very undesirable.

The turtledove — ; it is an extraordinary bird with a noble past. She enjoyed special reverence for many thousands of years, but today this peaceful creature is under threat. The turtledove has always been close to man, and whether this will continue depends on our generation and our efforts to protect it.

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