European Turtle Dove

Streptopelia turtur

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The European turtle dove, symbol of love and happiness, is Germany's smallest native wild dove. It is unmistakable on account of its brightly coloured plumage, which is identical in both sexes. Its rufous, black spotted wings and black-and-white striped patch on its neck and red eye rims are striking. European turtle doves are widely distributed with a western and central Palaearctic range. They are the only long-distance migrants among the central European dove species. They usually migrate at night and winter in Sub-Saharan Africa. Originally residents of steppes and forest steppes, they prefer open cultivated landscapes with a warm dry climate or sparse forests with undergrowth. Outside the breeding season, European turtle doves are very sociable and often mix with other dove species. During courtship, the turtle dove coos intensively and tirelessly and also displays a nuptial flight with a steep ascent and a downward flicking of the wings. One to two annual broods with a clutch of two white eggs each are common. The incubation period is about 14 days, the nestling period 18 days. Food is sought exclusively on the ground and consists of seeds (wild herbs growing in the fields, cereals, trees), berries, mushrooms, buds, herbaceous plants, insects and snails. The turtle dove population is declining sharply throughout Europe and has red list conservation status globally. One cause is intensive agriculture, which leads to the loss of fallow land, field margins, hedgerows and small water bodies and thus habitat and nesting site loss, as well as to a severely limited food supply. Although classified as an endangered species, the EU Birds Directive nevertheless allows hunting in ten EU countries. Illegal shooting has brought about a decimation of the population.

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