Cape Turtle Dove (Streptopelia capicola)

Identification

The Cape Turtle Dove, also known as the Ring-necked Dove, is a very common bird species that occurs all over South Africa. It can be identified by its brownish-grey wings, lavender-grey underparts, the black half collar on the back of its neck, and its dark eyes with a thin dark stripe leading to its bill. In flight, its white outer tail feathers are also an easy identifier. But, if in doubt, try to listen out for its call, a rhythmic, three-syllabled crooning. Take a listen here. Males and females are alike.

Main photo: BirdPix 12080 – Gregg & Desire Darling, Wilderness, Western Cape, 02 November 2014. Photo inset: BirdPix 73167 – Tony Archer, Klerksdorp, North West Province, 02 March 2019.

Habitat

Cape Turtle Doves occur almost everywhere in South Africa in a variety of habitats. They can be found in most types of woodland, farmland, suburban parks and gardens. They also often nest, roost, and forage in and around alien trees, such as Port Jackson Acacia saligna, Rooikrans Acacia cyclops, Pinus sp. and Eucalyptus sp.

Cape Turtle Dove perched in a tree: BirdPix 7622 – Johan Heyns, Heidelberg, Gauteng, 29 September 2012

Distribution

In continental Africa, the Cape Turtle Dove occurs from Ethiopia south through Tanzania, southern DRC, Zambia, Angola, and all the way to southern Africa. It is one of the most prolific birds in southern Africa, occurring across the entire region in woodland, savanna, farmland, urban parks and gardens. The SABAP2 distribution map below confirms its widespread range across all sorts of habitats.

SABAP2 distribution map for Cape Turtle Dove, downloaded 07 March 2022. Details for map interpretation here.

Behaviour

Cape Turtle Doves are usually found alone or in pairs. However, they do form larger flocks–sometimes comprising hundreds of birds!–especially around sources of food and water. These doves roost in treetops at night and forage for food on the ground by day. Peak foraging times are early morning and late afternoon. They mainly eat seeds, supplemented with fruit, nectar, leaves and invertebrates. When walking, their heads bob back and forth with each little step.

Pair of Cape Turtle Doves perched on a branch: BirdPix 124779 – Phillip Nieuwoudt, Rustenburg, North West Province, 29 December 2020. Large flock of Cape Turtle Doves: BirdPix 458 – Daivd Kennedy, Kgalagadi National Park, Northern Cape Province, 31 October 2010. Lone Cape Turtle Dove foraging: Birdpix 3884 – Vaughan Jessnitz, Hoedspruit, Limpopo Province, 25 August 2011.

During breeding, the female usually constructs the nest, taking about 3-8 days to build it. The nest is a small platform of twigs, grass, roots and sometimes pine needles, usually about 15cm wide. It is typically placed in the fork of a tree, surrounded by dense foliage and often in suburban gardens or parks. Both parents incubate the eggs and take care of the chicks after hatching. The chicks are dependent on their parents for approximately 12 days after hatching.

Cape Turtle Dove nest with eggs: BirdPix 59394 – Dewald du Plessis, Doornkloof, Free State Province, 29 June 2014.
Cape Turtle Dove on its nest: BirdPix 159089 – Vaughan Jessnitz, Gravelotte, Limpopo Province, 01 March 2021.

Further Resources

Species text from the first Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP1), 1997.

Virtual Museum (BirdPix > Search VM > By Scientific or Common Name).

More common names: Gewone tortelduif (Afrikaans); Ihobe (Xhosa); iHophe, uSamdokwe (Zulu); Tourterelle du Cap (French); Kapturteltaube (German).

Recommended citation format: Daniel KA and Loftie-Eaton M 2022. Cape Turtle Dove Streptopelia capicola. Bird Feeder Project. Biodiversity and Development Institute. Available Online at http://thebdi.org/2022/03/08/cape-turtle-dove-streptopelia-capicola/

Bird Feeder Project: Karis Daniel & Megan Loftie-Eaton
Bird Feeder Project: Karis Daniel & Megan Loftie-Eaton
The Bird Feeder Project is a BDI citizen science initiative involving school learners and youth eco-clubs. Learners are taught a scientific protocol for doing 10-minute watches and recording the species they see, in the order they see them. The Bird Feeder Project includes an online identification guide to about 30 of the species seen in gardens in Cape Town. Students will learn how to upload their cellphone photos into the BirdPix section of the Virtual Museum, where they will be curated for posterity. The 10-minute watches will rapidly grow into a valuable monitoring database. Karis Daniel is the Project Coordinator and put together the identification guide, Megan Loftie-Eaton helped with the species texts.