Turtle Dove, the common name of several small pigeons, especially of the genera turtvr and ana, characterized by a smaller size than the domestic pigeon, weaker bill, longer toes (the inner exceeding the outer), and a longer and wedge-shaped tail; they are both arboreal and terrestrial, feeding on the ground, but roosting and nesting in trees. The word turtle signified a dove until the discovery of America, when it was applied to the marine tortoises. In the genus turtvr (Selby) the bill is slender and straight, with the tip slightly arched and acute; wings long, the second and third quills the longest; tail moderate, rounded or even; tarsi almost as long as the middle toe, for the most part naked, and the toes long and slender. There are more than a dozen species, found in various parts of Europe, India, and Africa, in woods and jungles, making their presence known by their pleasant cooing; from Europe they migrate to the south in winter; they are generally seen in flocks of about 20, in open cultivated districts, feeding on grain, seeds of grass, etc.; the nest is made in thick woods, of small twigs loosely put together, and the eggs are two.
The common European turtle dove (T. auritus, Selby) is 11 in. long; the head, neck, breast, and back are wood-brown tinged with pearl-gray; a patch of black feathers margined with white on each side of the neck; scapulars and wing coverts black, shading into grayish, and edged with buff; lower parts white, as are the tips of the tail feathers except the two middle ones. It arrives in temperate Europe in May, leaving at the end of summer; it is found also in Asia and Africa, and is only a rare visitor to Great Britain; it has been supposed to be the origin of some of the smaller partly domestic varieties which are kept only in aviaries. The collared turtle dove (T. risorius, Selby) is 10 in. long; the general colors are different shades of pale wood-brown, with even paler edgings, tinged with vinaceous on the under parts, and with a half collar of black on the hind neck. It is found wild in most parts of Africa, bat is now widely distributed as a cage bird. If left at liberty, it flies away, and does not seem capable of domestication like the common pigeon; in warm climates seven or eight broods are raised in a season.
It is doubtless the turtle of the Scriptures, and is still numerous in Egypt and Asia Minor, deriving its specific name from a fancied resemblance of its cooing to a human laugh. - In the genus oena (Selby) the bill is moderate and very slender, the wings long with the first three quills nearly equal and longest, and the tail of 12 feathers, very long and wedge-shaped, with the two middle feathers narrowed. The Cape turtle dove (oe. Capensis, Selby) is 10 in. long, of which the tail is more than half, the closed wings reaching to about one third the length of the tail; in the male the forehead, chin, throat, and upper breast are intense black; crown, sides of neck and body, and lesser wing coverts pale French gray; middle of abdomen white; back pale brown.; wings deeper brown, with a few metallic purple spots; two black bars on the rump; middle tail feathers grayish brown, with terminal half black, and the rest bluish gray with a broad black band near the tip; bill and feet yellow. It is seen on trees bordering the rivers of S. Africa, making its nest in low bushes. - In North America is found the Carolina turtle dove (zenaidura Carolinensis, Bonap.), about 12| in. long and 17½ in. in alar extent; the bill is weak and black; the wings pointed, with the second quill the longest, and the first and third nearly equal; tail longer than the wings, much graduated and wedge-shaped, and of 14 feathers; though much smaller, it resembles the passenger or wild pigeon in its lengthened tail.
It is bluish above, mixed with light brownish olive, the former purest on the crown, wings, and upper surface of tail; the rest of head, sides of neck, and under parts generally light brownish red, purplish on breast, becoming brownish yellow behind; patch of metallic purplish on the sides of neck; sides of body and under surface of wings light blue; black spots on wings, and patch of same below ears; tail above with a subterminal black bar and light tip; feet yellow; the female is smaller and less reddish below. It is found all over the United States and in Cuba, and from ocean to ocean; it is rare in the British Atlantic provinces, though common on the Columbia river. The flight is extremely rapid and long continued, but not at a great height, and accompanied by a whistling noise; it walks with ease and grace, and runs swiftly; it seldom bathes, but drinks by swallowing water in long draughts, with the bill deeply immersed; it is rather shy, and difficult to shoot from the rapid flight; 200 or 300 constitute a large flock, which scatter over so large a space that it is not easy to kill more than one at a shot, except in winter when they come near farm houses; the flesh is excellent, and great numbers are killed in the southern states in winter.
In Louisiana they begin to lay by the last of March, but in New England not before the middle of May; the nest is made in any kind of tree, and is very loosely constructed; it breeds in aviaries, raising several broods in a season. The eggs are two, 11/8 by ¾ in., equally rounded at both ends, and pure white. - None of the turtle doves commit serious depredations in the fields of grain, as they are rather gleaners than reapers. The family characters have been given under Pigeon.
Collared Turtle Dove (Turtur risorius).
Carolina Turtle Dove (Zenaidura Carolinensis).