One of the most common of the collared (or ring-necked) doves found in the southern African region is the Cape turtle-dove and its distinctive call can be heard almost throughout the region. It is not a call that I enjoy hearing while I am on holiday or out in the veld for the weekend, for it sounds ominously like a guilt-inducing “work harder! work harder!” And the dove repeats this admonition almost endlessly, at all times of the day. We choose to think, in the late afternoon, that the bird is actually encouraging us to “drink lager! dring lager!“. This doesn’t fit the call quite as well, perhaps, but is a lot easier to comply with.
Although the Cape turtle-dove has a range that embraces most of the southern African region and well beyond, it is, in spite of its name, absent from the winter rainfall area of the western Cape of South Africa. It is a medium sized dove, around 27 cm in length, and is grey overall, with a black collar and the white under-tail feathers are conspicuous when the bird is in flight. Legs and feet are purple and the eyes are dark brown to black. The sexes are similar in plumage and the males are slightly larger than the females.
Generally absent from forested areas, the Cape turtle dove is very common in woodlands, farmlands and in parks and gardens where it has adapted well to the presence of humans. Although generally found singly or in small groups, large flocks may form at good water sources. At watering points in the Kgalagadi we have seen flocks that must have numbered in the hundreds of birds (and witnessed one of them being struck from the air by an incredibly fast-moving Lanner falcon). They feed mainly on seeds, but also on fruit, earthworms, termites and insects.
The Cape turtle dove is monogamous and builds a flimsy platform nest of twigs and grass, usually three to four metres above the ground in a tree. The female lays a clutch of two or three creamy-white eggs that hatch after an incubation period of about 15 days.
The scientific name of the Cape turtle dove is Streptopelia capicola; Streptopelia from the Greek for a collared dove and capicola from the Latin meaning an inhabitant of the Cape (of Good Hope). Thus we have a collared dove from the Cape. Can’t say fairer than that.