The preferred habitat of the Emerald-spotted wood-dove is, as its name implies, a variety of wooded areas, and they are particularly at home in acacia woodland and riparian forests. It can be quite a difficult bird to locate, although it is regarded as locally common and is heard fairly frequently within its range. In the southern African region it is found in the wetter north and east and is absent from the drier Namib and the Kalahari.
The Emerald-spotted wood-dove is fairly small and plump, with a length of about 20 cm. The males are slightly larger than the females. Its upper parts are pale grey-brown and its folded wings have the metallic green patches that give the bird its name. These emerald spots appear very dark if not seen in good light. They have bluish-grey foreheads and necks, the colour fading to grey on the throat and chest. The under-parts are pinky-mauve and the belly is white. The bill is black with a red base; legs and feet are purplish-red; eyes are dark brown.
The call of the Emerald-spotted wood-dove is a pair of long, soft “coos” followed by a series of “do’s” that increase in tempo and decrease in volume over the course of the cycle, “do do do dododo…“.
They are usually found singly or in pairs, but may form small flocks at water sources. They feed mainly on grass seeds, and thus feed mainly on the ground, but also eat termites and some fruit.
Emerald-spotted wood-doves are monogamous and build a flimsy stick nest high up, usually in a thorn tree. The female lays a clutch of two or three cream-coloured eggs that hatch after an incubation period of approximately 15 days. The young birds may fall prey to mongooses and shrikes.
The scientific binomial for the Emerald-spotted wood-dove is Turtur chalcospilos; Turtur from the Latin for a “turtle-dove”, and chalcospilos from the Greek for “copper spots”. Thus the name describes a turtle-dove with copper-coloured spots. As copper can adopt a green hue, this is a very apt description.