Turtle doves are found throughout Europe, Egypt, Northwest Africa and the Central Sahara. This bird is known as the symbol of love because of its faithfulness since pairs of doves will mate for life. They primarily eat seeds and leaves and prefer open woodlands for their habitat.
Although these birds were once offered for sacrifice in religious ceremonies, they are now often released at the Olympic Games in order to signify the hope for world peace. Unlike most birds, the turtle dove can drink water and swallow it without raising its head to do so.
Doves will remain in small flocks in the winter time but will return to their breeding area each year. The male builds the nest in trees and the mating pair will then finish the nest together, once the initial frame is built.
When flying, the turtle dove can travel long distances. It can change speed and direction very quickly as it flies through forested areas and it lands with its tail feathers open. Doves can use their speed and agility to avoid their predators but prefer to dodge and weave through the woodlands. Its predators are often hawks and eagles.
The eggs of the turtle dove will hatch in about two weeks and the babies are usually able to fly three weeks after hatching. Turtle doves, with the assistant of the hormone prolactin, feed the babies “pigeon milk”, which is a secretion of milk. Both male and female parents are able to secret pigeon milk and their crop will enlarge up to twenty times its original thickness.
The crop is an extension of the esophagus and it stores food that the dove swallows quickly. The squab, or baby, reaches into its parent’s beak and is able to scoop out pigeon milk from this area in the parent’s throat.