Controversial Rufous Turtle Dove

Not always easy…

This one is for the Turtle Dove connoisseurs.

I have said it before- I think it would be relatively easy to overlook some examples of  Rufous Turtle Dove ssp. ‘meena. The wintering Oriental Turtle Dove ssp. orientalis in Oxford has refocused attention on the identification of these birds. So this one found on Linosa Island in the Mediteranean in early November 2010 is educational. I think it looks like a ‘meena’ Rufous Turtle Dove as do the finders, Andrea Corso and Michele Viganò, and co-observers Ottavio Janni and Igor Maiorano. Not all are convinced however. One of the observers, Ottavio, emailed me for comments and subsequent discussion included Andrea as well. I don’t know the taxon but I would be pretty excited if I found this baby!

Size in the field appeared “quite a bit bigger and bulkier than the 2-3 European Turtle Doves that roosted in the same area”. I can see in the photos it has thin/ weak pale tips to primary coverts, barely visible bare skin around the eye (usually obvious and extensive in European Turtle Dove),  overall plumage looks OK to me with quite extensive white in underparts. The tail pattern looks indistinguishable from European Turtle Dove (but see below). I would personally identify it as a juvenile Rufous Turtle Dove. But I have much to learn. See what you think…

Thanks to the birds’ finders and photographers for this fascinating piece.

size comparison with Collared Dove

Underwing and tail pattern

Size comparison with European Turtle Dove (on right)

Above: 5 photos by Ottavio Janni

Below: 5 photos by Michele Viganò

All of (apparent) juvenile Rufous Turtle Dove (ssp. meena), Linosa, early November 2010.

thin pale tips to primary coverts visible and limited bare skin in front of eye

Size comparison again: Rufous Turtle Dove on left, European Turtle Dove on right

More on Tail Patterns

It seems tail patterns may be more variable and not always as ‘diagnostic’ as currently thought. Paul Leader sent his photo of an Oriental Turtle Dove (orientalis) with a very white patterned tail tip (except on central tail feathers), more like ssp. meena.

An orientalis tail taken in Hong Kong with quite whitish outer tail feathers and a very reduced smudge (such that would be difficult to see in the field). Paul Leader

and below examples of ssp. meena in juvenile plumage showing extensive dark smudge on outer web of T6 (outermost tail feather) and extensive white over underparts.

Both are juvenile meena collected in September in Kashmir. USNM, photos: Ottavio Janni

About Martin Garner

I am a Free Spirit
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2 Responses to Controversial Rufous Turtle Dove

  1. Julian Hough says:

    Nice post! I’d agree that it favors Oriental based on the photos and literature but as you admit, it’s a taxon I’m not totally familiar with.

    It reminds me of a weird Turtle Dove at Seaforth, in May in the 90s that i think Chris Kehoe found. Paul Holt and myself went to look at it at the request of Chris since meena wasn’t really known at the time. My notes seem not very useful, but maybe someone has photos??????? Be cool to look at it again in hindsight.

    Would be cool if it turned out to something other than a weird Turtle 😉

  2. Pingback: Rufous Turtle Dove | Birding Frontiers

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