European Turtle Dove, Streptopelia turtur, © BirdLife Europe
For thousands of years, European Turtle-doves have inspired humanity, serving as symbols of love, fidelity and new life. In Roman mythology, the bird was sacred to Demeter, Goddess of the harvest and fertility; in modern days, in Cockney rhyming slang, the words ‘turtle dove’ are used to mean ‘love’.
One of the main reasons the European Turtle-dove Streptopelia turtur is so well known may be because it is so widespread. The dove’s breeding grounds stretch across much of Europe, from Portugal, to Moscow, and even into Northern China. In the winter though, it heads down to warmer climes along the Sahel belt, in Africa. Once abundant throughout Europe and the Middle East, numbers have plummeted recently. In Europe alone, the dove’s population has fallen by 62% since 1980. See why this is and read the full story here.