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European turtle dove (Streptopelia turtur), or tórtora, in Ibiza.

14 January 2024

During the months of July and August 2023, we have made a small voluntary contribution to the genetic and biometric study being carried out by the Grup de Biologia de la Conservació del Centre de Ciència i Tecnologia Forestal de Catalunya (CTFC), which has consisted of collecting a series of DNA samples, scientific ringing and collection of biometric data from european turtle dove specimens that we have been capturing for the study on the island of Ibiza.

This collaboration was the result of conversations with Raül Escandell, from the SOM, who is currently managing a study project on the european turtle dove in Menorca, which also collaborates with the CTFC.

Pigeon catching in IbizaAll captures are made using trap-cages, with constant supervision, which allow the individuals to be captured and returned to the environment in perfect physical condition.

scientific ringing Ibiza Collection of biometric data on a previously ringed specimen.

The european turtle dove, along with the eurasian collared-dove (Streptopelia turtur), is one of the two species that can be found on Formentera and Eivissa. The latter, however, with the permission of the laughind dove (Spilopedia senegalensis), for which there are also records in the area of Sant Jordi de Ses Salines, and which may be in a process of expansion that will consolidate it as a nesting species on the island.

As far as the turtle dove is concerned, it has this common name due to its area of origin, i.e. Turkey and other subtropical areas of Asia. It is not a migratory species, it is sedentary, but even so it has managed to develop a great process of dispersion, which has led it to colonise practically all of Europe, and a large part of the African coast of the Mediterranean.

Both the eurasian collared-dove and the laughind dove are similar in size and type of feeding to the european turtle dove, but differ considerably in colouring.

eurasian collared-dove (Streptopelia decaocto) ibizaSpecimen of the eurasian collared-dove (Streptopelia decaocto).

Having made this brief presentation of the other turtledoves with which we should be familiar in order to avoid confusion, we will focus again on the main subject of this entry: the european turtle dove.

It is a migratory bird that is present in the Pitiusas during the spring and summer, or in other words, during the breeding period. Its breeding area covers practically all of Europe, North Africa and part of western and central Asia. Its wintering area is south of the Sahara, in a strip of land that stretches from east to west of the African continent, or in other words: the Sahel. This area of the African continent to the south of the Sahara varies in width from several hundred to a thousand kilometres, and passes through a dozen countries of our neighbouring continent, with which we have an impressive flow of migratory birds, which necessarily need both continents in order to exist as a species.

European Turtle Dove ibiza

streptopelia turtur arenicola ibizaFrontal and profile view, respectively, of a specimen of european turtle dove (Streptopelia turtur).

Its diet is mainly based on seeds, tender shoots and herbs. Due to its feeding habits, it is a species closely linked to rural areas and the agricultural world. But the transformation of this type of ecosystem due to the depopulation of the rural world, together with excessive pressure from hunting with shotguns, has caused a constant decline in the species over the years, which has required the pressure of different campaigns by ornithological and conservationist groups, to ensure that hunting is banned and the species may have some chance of reversing the population decline.

As with many other bird species, there is usually a nominal species, which in this case would be Streptopelia turtur turtur, and at the same time subspecies specific to certain areas within the total area of distribution of the species are described. In other words, we are talking about populations with small morphological and/or coductual differences, which make them different from other populations, but still belonging to the same species. This is where the study we referred to at the beginning of this entry comes in, since in the Balearic Islands, historically it has been considered that there is a subspecies different from the peninsular populations and closer to the one existing in North Africa, Streptopelia tutur arenicola, but today, and based on the data that have been collected to date in this study (the only samples they had from the Balearic Islands came from Menorca), this may not be the case.

This study, in the words of its authors, has the following objectives:

1) To analyse the biometric differences of the breeding populations of European Turtle Dove in the Iberian Peninsula and Balearic Islands.

2) To estimate the genetic diversity, population genetic structure and genetic differences between populations in the Iberian Peninsula and Balearic Islands, as well as the degree of connection between them through gene flow.

3) To evaluate the degree of congruence between the classical consideration of the Balearic Islands arenicola subspecie and the phylogenetic criteria based on mitochondrial DNA (Lara Moreno-Zarate, Julio César Domunguez, Jesus García, Gerard Bota).


To finish this small entry, and as an anecdotal fact, special mention should be made of an individual captured with a mouth perforation on the upper part of the beak over the lower part, which, given the age of the wound, must have been there for at least a couple of days, and which it would have been difficult to overcome without having placed the beak in the correct position. The bird was kept in custody for several days in a large, isolated chamber, and once it was verified that there was no major problem, that the wound was indeed healing and that it was eating and flying without any problem, it was released again so that it could begin its return journey to Africa sooner rather than later.

The fact that we have implemented scientific ringing on the captured specimens will allow us to carry out inter-annual monitoring of the species at the local level, i.e. if nothing prevents us from placing the traps again on the same dates and in the same places, we will be able to see if some of the specimens return to the same breeding area, as well as extending the study to new individuals.

streptopelia turtur arenicola

tortola europea

Nova Falcons is a company specialised in the control and monitoring of birds in Ibiza and Formentera. In addition to developing environmental consultancy services, technical assistance and environmental education.

Participants: Oscar García, Noé Pérez, Roberto Bustamante, Lara Abascal, Borja Pérez. 

Text: own elaboration.

unless otherwise specified, Borja Pérez; and unless otherwise indicated, all photos were taken in Eivissa or Formentera.

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About Nova Falcons:

Nova Falcons is a company specializing in wildlife control and environmental services.

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-Wildlife surveys, censuses and monitoring.

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Wildlife control in Ibiza