The European turtle dove is smaller and slighter in build than many other doves. It may be recognized by its browner color, and the black-and-white-striped patch on the side of its neck. The tail is notable as the bird flies from the observer; it is wedge-shaped, with a dark centre and white borders and tips. When viewed from below, this pattern, owing to the white under-tail coverts obscuring the dark bases, is a blackish chevron on a white ground. This can be seen when the bird stoops to drink and raises its spread tail. The mature bird has the head, neck, flanks, and rump blue-grey, and the wings cinnamon, mottled with black. The breast is vinaceous, the abdomen and under tail coverts are white. The juvenile bird is browner and duller and doesn't have the black and white patch on the side of its neck.
European turtle doves breed over a wide area of the southwestern Palearctic covering most of Europe and the Middle East and including Turkey and North Africa. They are migratory and spend winter in northern sub-Saharan Africa. European turtle doves inhabit woodlands with open areas or woodland edges, steppe, semi-desert, hedges, groves, plantations, woody marshes, and shrubland. They tend to avoid dense woodlands and large gardens.
European turtle doves are diurnal birds. They are usually seen singly or in pairs but may gather in big flocks in areas where food is abundant or near water sources. They nest and spend most of their time in trees but feed on the ground. European turtle doves are one of the latest migrants and rarely appear in Northern Europe before the end of April, returning south again in September. The arrival in spring is heralded by their 'cooing' or 'purring' song, a rather deep, vibrating 'turrr, turrr'.
The breeding season of European turtle doves starts in April and lasts until September. The female lays 2 eggs in a nest made of twigs and lined with soft plant material. Both the male and the female incubate the eggs for about 2 weeks. The chicks fledge at the age of 20 days and become reproductively mature when they are one year old.
The main threats to this species include habitat loss, hunting, the use of pesticides, droughts and climate change, and competition with the Collared dove.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of the European turtle dove is fewer than 12,800,000-47,600,000 mature individuals. The European population consists of 3,150,000-5,940,000 pairs, which equates to 6,310,000-11,900,000 mature individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are decreasing.