Turtle dove Streptopelia turtur, pair perched on agricultural machinery, Essex, England, June_photo credit: Andy Hay CFE

How to identify a turtle dove

Look out for these identification features:

  • smaller than any other pigeon or dove in the UK, slightly larger than a blackbird
  • orange eyes
  • black and white striped patch on neck
  • black tail with thin white edge
  • chestnut and black diamond’s on wings
  • pale grey-lilac head and breast

Their most similar relative in the UK is the collared dove, differentiated by its larger size and plainer white-grey body. Look at the illustrations of these two species below to see the differences. Turtle doves often like to use bare or deadwood branches of tall trees on the edge of woodland or hedgerows, where they perch and call. The tell-tale feature of a turtle dove is its gentle purr, an evocative sound of summer (click here to listen).

Mike Langman illustration turtle dove
Turtle dove
Mike Langman illustration collared dove
Collared dove