[Heb., tor, tohr; Gr., try·gonʹ].
A small wild pigeon, usually with strong migratory habits. The Hebrew name evidently imitates the plaintive cry of “tur-r-r tur-r-r” made by the bird.
The varieties of turtledove most frequently found in Palestine are the common turtledove (Streptopelia turtur) and the collared turtledove (Streptopelia decaocto), the latter so named from a narrow black collar at the back of the neck. Another variety, the palm turtledove or laughing dove (Streptopelia senegalensis), has steadily extended its range in Israel in recent decades.
The turtledove is mentioned in Jeremiah 8:7 among the birds that “observe well the time of each one’s coming in,” evidently indicating annual migration. Reference must be to the common turtledove, since the others found in Palestine do not migrate but stay there all year round. The common turtledove was an unerring harbinger of spring in Palestine, arriving there from the S in early April and ‘making its voice heard in the land.’—Ca 2:12.
A shy, gentle bird, the turtledove relies on speedy flight as a means of escaping its enemies. (Ps 74:19) During their season turtledoves are quite abundant throughout Palestine; and since they feed on grain, seeds, and clover, they are easily captured by ground snares. Abraham included a turtledove in his offering at the time Jehovah ‘concluded a covenant’ with him (Ge 15:9, 10, 17, 18), and thereafter the Mosaic Law either specified or allowed for the use of turtledoves in certain sacrifices and purification rites. (Le 1:14; 5:7, 11; 12:6, 8; 14:22, 30; 15:14, 15, 29, 30; Nu 6:10, 11) Mary offered either two turtledoves or two young pigeons at the temple following Jesus’ birth.—Lu 2:22-24; see DOVE; PIGEON.