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European Turtle-dove Streptopelia turtur

This species has been uplisted to Vulnerable. It has undergone rapid declines in much of its European range whilst in Russia and Central Asia it is thought to have experience more severe declines. Declines are thought to be driven by a number of factors including loss of foraging and nesting sites as well as disease and hunting along its migration.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

27-29 cm medium-sized dove. Forehead pale bluish grey, throat white, sides of face pinkish grey; lower throat and breast mauve-pink merging into white on belly and undertail-coverts; flanks pale grey; black, silver-tipped feathers, form a patch on side of neck giving impression of a patch of diagonal black and silver lines; mantle dark brown, often grey tinted, centre of each feather darker forming a scaled pattern; primaries, outer secondaries and primary-coverts blackish grey; lower back and rump drab tinged with blue-grey; uppertail-coverts greyish drab; underside of tail black and white; iris varying from golden yellow to light orange; orbital skin dark purplish blue; bill blackish often with purple tinge, paler toward tip; legs purplish red (Baptista et al. 2015). Female sometimes indistinguishable, sometimes a little paler and duller in colouration. Juvenile generally browner and duller. Voice Song a repeated phrase of two low-pitched purring coos.

Distribution and population
The species is a widespread migrant breeder across much of central and southern Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, wintering mainly in the Sahel zone of Africa (Baptista et al. 2015).

Population justification
The European population is estimated at 3,150,000-5,940,000 pairs, which equates to 6,310,000-11,900,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). Europe forms 25-49% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 19,300,000-71,400,000 individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed.

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be in decline owing to ongoing habitat destruction and unsustainable levels of exploitation. In Europe the population size is estimated to be decreasing by 30-49% in 15.9 years (three generations) (BirdLife International 2015). In Europe, trends since 1980 show that populations have undergone a moderate decline (p<0.01), based on data from the Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme (EBCC/RSPB/BirdLife/Statistics Netherlands, P. Vorisek in litt. 2008). In Central Asia (Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) an analysis of observations of the species suggests that it has experienced a moderate or possibly strong decline over the past two to four decades (R. Ayé in litt. 2015). In Uzbekistan the species has declined severely over the past thirty years (R. Kashkarov in litt. 2015). The formerly large population in European Russia has crashed by >80% since 2000 and by >90% since 1980 (BirdLife International 2015). Declines have also been reported from parts of east and south-east Kazakhstan, for example the species is now rare, or even absent in the Manrak Mountains, where it was once common (Wassink and Oreel 2008).

The species uses a wide variety of woodland types, as well as steppe and semi-desert (Baptista et al. 2015). It uses hedges, borders of forest, groves, spinneys, coppices, young tree plantations, scrubby wasteland, woody marshes, scrub and garigue, all with agricultural areas nearby for feeding (Tucker and Heath 1994). It tolerates humans but does not breed close to towns or villages (Baptista et al. 2015). It generally breeds at low altitudes not exceeding 500 m in the temperate zone and up to 1,000-1,300 m in Mediterranean areas (Tucker and Heath 1994). Breeding commences in May. It lays two eggs (Baptista et al. 2015). The nest is a small platform of twigs lined with plant material and placed in the lowest parts of trees (Tucker and Heath 1994) and in shrubs and hedges. It mainly feeds on the ground taking seeds and fruits of weeds and cereals, but also berries, fungi and invertebrates. It is strongly migratory (Baptista et al. 2015), wintering south of the Sahara from Senegal east to Eritrea and Ethiopia (Tucker and Heath 1994).

Transformation of agricultural land, including destruction of hedges, is thought to be an important factor in the decline of this species as well as the loss of semi-natural habitats. Changes in agricultural practices have several impacts on the species, as they can both reduce food supply and nesting habitat availability and it is likely that the decline in food is the main limiting factor rather than decline in nest site availability (Lutz 2006). Widespread use of chemical herbicides appears to also be a very serious factor, with a consequent decline or elimination of many food plants. Hunting is also significant during migration and in its wintering range; with an annual toll in France computed at c. 40,000 birds (Baptista et al. 2015). The species is also vulnerable to infection by the protozoan parasite Trichomonas gallinae, which causes mortality (Stockdale et al. 2014). Severe drought in the Sahel zone is thought to be a possible factor in the decline as well as competition with Eurasian Collared-dove Streptopelia decaocto (Lutz 2006). A loss of suitable autumn stopping sites (field crops and trees around oases) may also have contributed to its decline as well as a change in tree composition, increased disturbance and an increase in the number of Common Myna Acridotheres tristis in cities where European Turtle-dove nested in Central Asia (R. Kashkarov in litt. 2015).

Conservation and Research Actions Underway
CMS Appendix II. EU Birds Directive Annex II. In the U.K. it is protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and Schedule 1 of the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985. A management plan for the species was published in 2007 (Lutz 2007).
Conservation and Research Actions Proposed
Breeding and staging habitats should be managed to ensure favourable conditions for the species (Lutz 2006), including: ensuring the conservation and re-creation of hedges with hawthorn (Crataegus) which is a favoured tree for breeding and a reduction in the use of agricultural herbicides (Tucker and Heath 1994). Restrictions on hunting to avoid affecting late breeding birds and birds during spring migration should be introduced and enforced. Annual national bag statistics where hunting takes place must be collected in order to develop a level of hunting which is sustainable. Research and population monitoring should be continued (Lutz 2006), particularly in its non-European range where little information is currently available.

Baptista, L.F., Trail, P.W., Horblit, H.M., Boesman, P. and Sharpe, C.J. 2015. European Turtle-dove (Streptopelia turtur). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. and de Juana, E. (eds), Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive, Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

BirdLife International. 2004. Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

BirdLife International. 2015. European Red List of Birds. Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg.

Browne, S. J.; Aebischer, N. J. 2003. Temporal changes in the migration phenology of turtle doves Streptopelia turtur in Britain, based on sightings from coastal bird observatories. Journal of Avian Biology 34: 65-71.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2015).

Sparks, T. H.; Huber, K.; Bland, R. L.; Crick, H. Q. P.; Croxton, P. J.; Flood, J.; Loxton, R. G.; Mason, C. F.; Newnham, J.A.; Tryjanowski, P. 2007. How consistent are trends in arrival (and departure) dates of migrant birds in the UK? Journal of Ornithology 148: 503-511.

Stockdale, J.E., Dunn, J.C., Goodman, S.J., Morris, A.J., Sheehan, D.K., Grice, P.V., and Hamer, K.C. 2014. The protozoan parasite Trichomonas gallinae causes adult and nestling mortality in a declining population of European Turtle Doves, Streptopelia turtur. Parasitology 142(03): 490-498.

Tryjanowski, P.; Kuzniak, S.; Sparks, T. H. 2002. Earlier arrival of some farmland migrants in western Poland. Ibis 144: 62-68.

Tryjanowski, P.; Kuzniak, S.; Sparks, T. H. 2005. What affects the magnitude of change in first arrival dates of migrant birds? Journal of Ornithology 146: 200-205.

Tucker, G.M. and Heath, M.F. 1994. Birds in Europe: their conservation status. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Wassink, A.; Oreel, G. J. 2008. Birds of Kazakhstan: new and interesting data. Dutch Birding 30(2): 93-100.

Further web sources of information
Detailed regional assessment and species account from the European Red List of Birds (BirdLife International, 2015)

Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Wright, L, Pople, R., Burfield, I., Ashpole, J, Ieronymidou, C. & Wheatley, H.

Vogrin, M., Perlman, Y., Sorrenti, M., Raudonikis, L., Kashkarov, R., Mitropolskiy, O., Ayé, R., Roth, T., Kashkov, R. & Schweizer, M.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2015) Species factsheet: Streptopelia turtur. Downloaded from on 29/11/2015. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2015) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 29/11/2015.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Turtle dove (Streptopelia turtur) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Columbidae (Pigeons, Doves)
Species name author (Linnaeus, 1758)
Population size 13000000-48000000 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 4,510,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- 2015 European Red List assessment