Lee Richardson Zoo

Ringed Turtle Dove

Order: Columbiformes

Family: Columbidae

Scientific Name: Streptopelia risoria


DescriptionRinged turtle doves are approximately 11 inches long, with a wingspan of approximately 20 inches.  They are pale-colored with a thin black collar around the back of the neck.  The upper parts are grayish, and the head and underparts are pale buff.  The tail is long and square-ended, with white corners.  Males and females look alike.  Pigeons and doves have unique bills with a fleshy, often bulbous swelling at the base and another smaller, horny swelling toward the tip.

Worldwide, both captive and feral

Home Range:  Kept in captivity worldwide.  Feral populations are becoming established throughout the United States.


Habitat Type:  Doves are adaptable to a wide variety of habitats, including urban areas, deserts, mountains, grasslands, and rainforests.  Feral populations of this species are found in open woodland or parks near human habitation.


Reproduction:  Ringed turtle doves are monogamous, and breed throughout the spring and summer.  The nest is a thin, flimsy platform of twigs built 5-15 feet above the ground in a tree or bush, or on a building.  During nest-building, the male collects sticks from the ground and carries them to the nest site, where he gives them to the female for arranging.  Males perform a bow-coo display during courtship.  The display is unique in each species of dove, and prevents interbreeding by helping individuals identify potential mates.  Males also perform display flights, clapping their wings together while flying upwards, and then gliding down with the tail and wing feathers spread widely.  Both partners may preen each other around the head and neck.

They usually lay 2 eggs per clutch, and begin incubating after the second egg is laid.  The female incubates overnight and in the morning, and the male takes her place for the late morning and afternoon.  They occasionally use a broken-wing display to lead predators away from the nest, a behavior usually displayed only by ground-nesting species.  The incubation period is 14 days.

The chicks are blind and helpless at hatching.  They are covered by a thin layer of down.  Their first food is a milk-like substance (pigeon milk) produced in the crop of both parents.  (The male often produces more than the female.)  The chicks beg for food by shaking their wings and making high-pitched trilling calls.  When an adult bird opens its mouth, the chicks can reach in and feed on the milk.  They soon begin to eat insects and seeds, and fledge in 12-14 days.


Diet in the Wild:  Mostly seeds and berries; also bread and other food left by people


Diet in the Zoo:  Scratch mix, soft-billed bird diet, and small bird maintenance


General Information:  The ringed turtle dove probably descended from the African collared-dove, S. roseogrisea.  It has been bred domestically since ancient times, and is almost always found in captivity.  Escaped or released birds are doing increasingly well in the wild, with feral populations increasing across the country.  They often survive partially on human handouts.  More than 40 different color variations have been produced, ranging from the wild type (described above) to gray, brown, orange, white, or other colors.  Our doves are the white form, differing from the albino form by a pale ring around the neck and a pale bar on the underside of the tail, and orange eyes (rather than pink). 

They give a quiet, cooing song as a mating and territorial vocalization, and also produce a low-pitched, nasal laughing sound.  Males may fight by pecking, hitting each other with their wings, or standing on each other’s back.  They feed on the ground, foraging for fallen berries and seeds.  Unlike most other birds, doves and pigeons can drink without raising their heads.  They drink by immersing their bills in water and sucking.  Doves are very fast fliers, often cruising at 40-50 mph.  In addition to being fast, these doves are amazing in their ability to change speed and direction.


Conservation Status:  This species is one of the most common doves in captivity.


Predators:  Mainly cats and birds of prey



NatureServe website


Patuxent Wildlife Research Center website


The Sibley Guide to Birds.  2000.  D.A. Sibley.  Alfred A. Knopf, New York.  p. 256.


“Synopsis of behavior traits of the Ringneck Dove”.  W.J. Miller and L.S. Miller.  Animal Behavior 1958 VI, 1-2:  pp. 3-8.