About the Turtle Dove

Breeding Population in the Netherlands: 1200-1400 pairs


Length (tail to beak): 26-28 cm

Wingspan: 47-53 cm

Weight: 130-180 gram


Red List Status in the Netherlands: Vulnerable

IUCN Red List: Vulnerable

Appearance and Habitat

The Turtle Dove is small, shy and rather beautiful. Striking markings on their wings and neck easily distinguish it from the more common Collared Dove. Turtle Doves have a blue-grey head, light brown breast, black and white stripes on their necks and cinnamon brown wings covered in black spots. Adults have a red eye-ring during the breeding season.

Turtle Doves typically live in small-scale agricultural areas, where overgrown hedgerows, tall trees with open canopies and scrub form an integral part of the landscape.



The Turtle Dove is the only species of dove in the Netherlands that migrates. They arrive in the Netherlands in April, in time for their breeding season. From August onwards they will make their 4000km journey back to their wintering grounds in the Sahel region of Africa.

This journey takes them about 3 weeks, and they often stop in Spain/Portugal along the way.

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Chance of Seeing Turtle Doves in the Netherlands



The Turtle Dove is monogamous – a breeding pair will remain together for several breeding seasons. Some pairs are formed during migration, but more often than not the males arrive in the breeding ground earlier than the females. Here, they “coo” to attract a female. Paired birds breed in the Netherlands from April onwards. Females build nests in (often thorny) bushes and trees, and sometimes in fruit trees or conifers. The nest looks rather messy – made primarily of sticks, sometimes with bits of rope or plastic through it. Most females produce two eggs, and they are kept warm by both parents.



Turtle Doves are primarily granivorous, eating the seeds from wildflowers and cultivated crops, such as wheat, rapeseed, buckwheat and chickweed. Occasionally small snails and slugs find their way on to the menu. In earlier days, their diet was dominated by the seeds of wild herbaceous plants, but this has been increasingly replaced by the seeds of cultivated crops.