[Heb., tor, tohr; Gr., try·gonʹ].
A small wild pigeon, usually with strong migratory habits. The Hebrew name evidently imitates the plaintive cry of “tor-r-r tor-r-r” made by the bird, and this sound is also essentially duplicated in the Latin name turtur.
The varieties of turtledove most frequently found in Palestine are the “common turtledove” and the “collared turtledove,” the latter so named from a narrow black collar at the back of the neck.
Another variety, the “palm turtledove,” does not migrate, spending the whole year in the tropical climate of the Dead Sea valley. The other types, however, do migrate annually, and this is evidently indicated by the reference to the turtledove and other birds and to “the time of each one’s coming in” at Jeremiah 8:7. The turtledove was an unerring harbinger of spring in Palestine, arriving there from the S in early March and ‘making its voice heard in the land.’—Song of Sol. 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 (Gen. 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. (Lev. 1:14; 5:7, 11; 12:6, 8; 14:22, 30; 15:14, 15, 29, 30; Num. 6:10, 11) Mary offered either two turtledoves or two pigeons at the temple following Jesus’ birth.—Luke 2:22-24; see DOVE; PIGEON.