Red-eyed Dove (Streptopelia semitorquata)

Cover photo – BirdPix 112207 Red-eyed Dove by Anthony Archer.


The Red-eyed dove is common in many areas of southern Africa, and has adapted well to living with humans.

It is a largish, stocky bird, with adults typically 30 cm in length. Its back, wings and tail are greyish to pale brown in colour. In flight one can observe a dark band with a pale edge on the tail feathers. The head and underparts are greyish pink, shading to pale grey on the face. They have a black collar on the back their neck. The legs and a patch of bare skin around the eye are red. Their call is a loud doo-doo-du-du, which can sound like they are singing “I AM the red-eyed dove”, with an emphasis on the “AM”!

Sexes are similar, but juveniles are duller than adults, and have scalloping on the body feathers.

Identification guide adult Red-eyed Dove
Main photo: BirdPix 134032 – Gareth Yearsley, Morgan Bay, Eastern Cape, 08 October 2020. Inset photo: BirdPix 31481 – Les Underhill, Cape Town, Western Cape, 22 October 2016.
Identification guide juvenile Red-eyed Dove
Juvenile Red-eyed Dove – BirdPix 134725: Giles Mulholland, Nelspruit, Mpumalanga, 05 October 2012.

The Ring-necked Dove is superficially similar, but shows white in the tail when it flies (rather than the dark grey and light grey bands of this species), and its call is “Tell father, work harder” (rather than “I AM the Red-eyed Dove”).


It has adapted very well to the activities of humans, generally preferring woodland habitats, and especially alien tree plantations, with pine trees Pinus sp., Eucalyptus, Rooikrans Acacia cyclops or Port Jackson Acacia saligna.

Habitat Red-eyed Dove
Habitat types of the Red-eyed Dove.
Photo bottom left: BirdPix 156794 – Vaughn Jessnitz & Andrew Venter, Gravelotte, Limpopo, 06 November 2021. Top left: BirdPix 150844 – Itxaso Quintana, Kleinmond, Western Cape, 26 December 2020. Top right: BirdPix 137609 – John & Anne Todd, Heidelberg, Western Cape, 27 October 2020. Bottom right: BirdPix 98799 – Ryan Tippett, Keimoes, Northern Cape, 05 December 2019.


The Red-eyed Dove occurs across most of sub-Saharan Africa. In southern Africa, it is common in northern Namibia, northern and south-eastern Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, eSwatini, Lesotho and South Africa. The SABAP2 distribution map below confirms its widespread range across all sorts of habitats within South Africa. It is largely absent from the Northern Cape Province due to the aridness of the area.

SABAP2 distribution map for Red-eyed Dove
SABAP2 distribution map for Red-eyed Dove, downloaded 12 August 2022. Details for map interpretation here.


Red-eyed Doves usually forage on the ground under trees. They eat a wide variety of seeds, as well as flowers, nuts, fruit and the occasional insect. They readily visit gardens.

Streptopelia semitorquata
Red-eyed Dove foraging in a suburban garden – Stellenbosch, Western Cape, 27 December 2011. Photo by Megan Loftie-Eaton.

When breeding time comes around, the female usually makes the nest using material collected by the male. The nest consists of a bowl of twigs lined with grass. It may also use nests of other birds, such as crows, thrushes and egrets. Egg-laying season is year round, usually peaking from September to January. Red-eyed Doves lay 1-2 eggs which are incubated by both parents for 14-17 days.

Streptopelia semitorquata
Red-eyed Doves nesting – Photo left: BirdPix 61293 – Lia Steen, Roodepoort, Gauteng, 04 September 2018. Photo right: BirdPix 87629 – Malcolm Robinson, Creighton, KwaZulu-Natal, 31 July 2019.

Its flight is quick, with regular wing beats and an occasional sharp flick of the wings, which are characteristic of pigeons and doves in general.

Streptopelia semitorquata
Lift off! – BirdPix 224355 – Les Underhill, Wellington, Western Cape, 16 June 2022.

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: Grootringduif (Afrikaans); Indlasidudu (Xhosa); iHophe (Zulu); Tourterelle à collier (French); Halbmondtaube (German).

Recommended citation format: Daniel KA and Loftie-Eaton M 2022. Red-eyed Dove Streptopelia semitorquata. Bird Feeder Project. Biodiversity and Development Institute. Available Online at

List of bird species in this format is available here.

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.