A new bird for our garden list: Collared Turtle-dove

Collared Turtle-dove

Collared Turtle-dove

CORRECTION: I have asked various experts in these matters and it seems that the general opinion is that this bird is in fact a BARBARY DOVE.

It is not often these days that I am able to add a new bird to our garden bird list. We’ve been living here now for over 20 years and a new species added to the list is a notable event.

This morning while putting out the rubbish bin my attention was drawn to an unusual bird in the tree near the driveway. Immediately I thought it was a Spotted Turtle-dove. On closer inspection it was far lighter in colour than the resident Spotted Turtle-doves which are an introduced species here in Australia. The Spotted Turtle-doves frequently nest in our garden but are never present in large numbers – perhaps three or four at a time at most.

Something quite different

I left the rubbish bin in the driveway and raced inside for the binoculars. As I went I changed my mind and grabbed the digital camera. It was still there when I came out again, posing beautifully in full sunlight on a branch just above head height. Lovely. I realised instantly that this was something quite different. I immediately thought it was a Collared Turtle-dove (also called a Barbary Dove: UPDATE: I’m not sure if this is true; the sites I consulted are very confusing).

Introduced species:

This species is not featured in Australian Field Guides as a resident species. It is present in a few suburbs in nearby Adelaide (80km to the west) and Alice Springs (central Australia) and I’ve read of a few small populations in parts of eastern Australia. Research on the internet has not been all that satisfying and somewhat confusing. This is because there seem to be a number of different common names used for this species, if I’m reading the information correctly. Some names I’ve some across include Collared Dove, Collared Turtle-dove, Barbary Dove, Ringed Dove and it looks somewhat like the African Collared Dove. To say I’m confused is an understatement. If any readers can clear up these issues I appreciate you using the comments below (or the contact email form here).

Collared Turtle-dove

Collared Turtle-dove


This bird seemed to be very tame. It sat patiently and quietly in the tree just above my head while I took the photos on this page. It was less than three metres away through much of this process. This indicates to me that it has escaped – or been released – from someone’s aviary. There are many bird keepers in our city with a very active bird club. To my knowledge this is the first time this species has been recorded in the wild here. I thought of catching it and putting it in a cage, but it was too high to reach. Within a half hour it had flown and I haven’t seen it again. I hope that it was a single bird; we don’t really want a breeding colony resident in the district.

A “lifer” for me

Not only was this a new bird for our garden list – and a species that may never be recorded here again – it was also a “lifer” meaning I’d never seen this species before in my life. It was not as exciting as adding any other species to my life list because it is an introduced species and something that should not be here. Add to that the fact that it has either escaped or been released from an aviary takes the gloss off seeing a new bird.

[Sigh] I’ll just have to get out more to add other species to my life list.

Click on the photos to enlarge the images.

Collared Turtle-dove

Collared Turtle-dove

Collared Turtle-dove

Collared Turtle-dove

Collared Turtle-dove

Collared Turtle-dove



19 Responses to “A new bird for our garden list: Collared Turtle-dove”

  1. Robbie Brown says:


  2. Trevor says:

    Thanks Robbie – welcome to my blog.

  3. Brenton says:

    Is this species becoming more established? When I was on holidays in Melbourne, I sighted it regularly in the suburb of Yarraville, where I was staying. I had never seen it around before. Interesting?

  4. Amila says:

    Nice! It is a northern (more precisely a Deccan Avi-fauna Zone) specialty here and I added it to my life list sometime ago.
    Must sit down and do my garden list..

  5. Trevor says:

    Yes Brenton – I believe it is becoming more established in various cities around Australia. Just another feral to add to the list – a beautiful one but still a feral.

  6. Brenton says:

    Hi Trevor, Thanks for your reply here. So it is a Barbary Dove! Well to be a bit ‘bold’ there are a few ferals around, so I suppose the bird world has to have it’s share!

  7. Peter says:

    Hi, I’m from Salisbury (north of Adelaide) and have recently come across these in our garden (Sadly my cat caught a baby one just the other day.) My dad reckons this is the second year he’s seen them. I’ve never seen such tame birds before. They sit on my letter box and don’t fly away even when I take my mail out..

  8. Trevor says:

    Welcome to my blog Peter.

    There are small breeding populations of this species of dove in several suburbs of Adelaide. I have read in several places that they tend to be very tame and easily caught. You might want to consider destroying their nest if you observe them nesting – we don’t really need another feral species getting established here.

  9. Shane says:

    Hi Trevor,

    I live in Curlewis near Geelong.
    We have an aviary in our yard which until recently was inhabited by a cockatiel that escaped.
    My daughter was walking past this aviary which had an open door and lo and behold there are 2 of these sitting in there!

    I dont know if they are a pair or escaped but they are indeed a beautiful little bird.

    She hasn’t decided whether to let them go or not yet.



  10. Trevor says:

    Hi there Shane.

    I think they’ve moved in! “What a wonderful home” they are probably thinking. Actually – they are better off in an aviary. The fewer feral birds we have in Australia the better. This species is essentially a cage bird; as I understand it they don’t exist in the wild.

  11. Vanda Rounsefell says:

    We have been observing these in an Andrews farm garden North of Adelaide for some 3-4 years. They are very tame as eswhere noted. There were two at first and over the years the numbers have grown to 8. One recent addition has a blue band on its leg. There is one exhibiting male courting behaviour (May), and the rest seem to be either female of juvenile males by behaviour. Does anyone know what the flocking & pairing behaviour is or whether they are in any way migratory? They seem to appear in the garden for a month or three then vanish for long periods. Can’t remember the periodicity.

  12. SUSAN says:

    T o hear you all saying that these beautiful turtle doves are ferrel and should not be here breaks my heart as they are birds from he bible and a spiritual symbol of peace and love.
    I have been blessed to have this year 6 cream ring neck ones and 4 spotted as well and have babies what a delight to see them growing in front of my eyes. to mention they are not native to Australia neither are all of us so are we ferrel as well the aboriginies are the only native to Austraia so no more on destroying these birds created by God as without nature what a lonely boring world it would be

  13. Jenny says:

    Hi Trevor,
    I have had a Barbary dove in my garden in Wagga for about 4 weeks now – until finding your website could not identify it. It sits alone in a tree and coos …. no partner to be seen, so sounds quite sad. And yes, it is very tame! I’m afraid it is a sitting target for the cats in the neighbourhood, so I’m trying to keep an eye on it.

  14. Trevor says:

    Hi there Susan,

    Sorry about the delay in replying to your comment – I’ve been busy. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a few comments.

    While I understand your concerns I feel that there are a few of your points that need to be challenged. From the outset, I must declare that I am a practising Christian who has read the entire Bible dozens of times and am a leader of a Bible study group and in leadership within our local church.

    Doves and turtledoves are, as you say, a Biblical symbol of peace. Don’t ever forget that they were also used in large numbers as sacrifices, especially by the poor. Even Joseph and Mary did this with baby Jesus during his consecration (Luke 2:21-24). The symbolism is powerful: a humble dove sacrificed for the baby as an act of consecration before God, reflecting what Jesus was to become as a sacrifice for each one of us thus bringing us peace with God.

    With respect, I must disagree with your point regarding the Aborigines of Australia. Most authorities now acknowledge that they also came to Australia from SE Asia at some time in the past, hence they are, in that sense, like the rest of us. I do take offence at being called ‘feral’ though I understand the point you are making.

    I take a rather pragmatic view of introduced species in Australia. Yes – they are God’s creation and as such deserve our wonder and admiration – not wholesale slaughter or denigration. I just don’t think they have a place here in our fragile environment.

    Take the Common Starling as an example. Setting aside the enormous economic loss incurred with millions of starlings eating fruit, they have exacted an enormous toll on our native wildlife, taking enormous amounts of food from our native species and occupying and fouling up nesting hollows which would have been used by our native birds, possums and bats. Some species are on the edge of extinction as a result.

    This brings to mind the whole issue of stewardship of this land and in a global sense, the whole planet. By allowing species to exist where they did not originally occur is poor stewardship of the planet, especially if they are denying the native species a place to live. The cat is a classic example of what I am trying to say. Pet cats have no place in this land. The ‘harmless’ pet cat has gone feral in many parts of Australia. I’ve seen wild cats that would send a large dog packing; they are enormous, strong and very cunning. They continue to destroy our wildlife – birds, mammals, reptiles etc in huge numbers and at an alarming rate. We are not looking after our land, or our planet.

    If we don’t try to control the feral species, that is all we will have – no more beautiful parrots, wrens, finches and robins. To only have introduced turtledoves, starling and mynas will be too horrible to contemplate – not to mention boring.

  15. Trevor says:

    Hi there Jenny,

    I have limited knowledge of this species but I have read that they are very tame which makes them easy targets for cats. I haven’t heard of any feral populations in Wagga so the one you are seeing could well be an aviary escape.

  16. Anthony says:

    Turtle doves and sub species are a rotten pest in this country. In my neighbourhood they have completely taken over. There are no other birds except the occasional crow passing through. From 5am till dusk they coo and coo and coo. It never ends and it’s driving me insane. People like Susan are the worst kind of animal lover, all compassion and no understanding. Feral doves are replacing our unique native species. They should be destroyed. If GOD exists, then it is GOD who gave us the intelligence to understand the world he created, and to take care of it.

  17. SUSAN says:

    Oh by the way ANTHONY if the cooing gets you down it sounds like you have a weak nervous system and need to take care of your own health first and seek to find GOD in your life then you shall have more understanding of whats happening.
    But as women are more spiritual than men i seriously doubt if you would understand i can read beteen the lines of letters.
    Try and get along with all as The Lord sais we are to love our neighors as ourselves and that means everyone.
    But if you do not love and respect yourself that will never happen.Susan

  18. Trevor says:

    Jamie sent this to me via email:

    G’day mate

    I found one of these birds in my backyard this morning (Melbourne). It was pecking around in the dirt. I used to keep these birds years ago, so I knew exactly what it was.

    They are Barbary Doves. And I’d be almost certain, the one you saw would have been an aviary escapee like the one I saw this morning. In fact, I caught him and he was so weak that he struggled to fly. He’s in with my two pigeons now. He hasn’t eaten much, but hope he does so after he’s settled in.

    They are loud, but have to be one of the most beautiful birds I’ve ever kept. The are so gentle and just generally nice.

    If you can catch the one you saw I’d advise it, because nothing seems to scare them, and a cat could easily get it. Usually if you go up to them, they’ll just let you grab them.

    Good luck, and let me know how you go.


  19. […] North America. I actually photographed one in our garden in South Australia a few years ago – click here to see the photos of a sub-species, the Barbary […]