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the web of life in southern Africa

Streptopelia capicola (Cape Turtle Dove)

Gewone tortelduif [Afrikaans]; Ihobe, Untamnyama [Xhosa]; iHophe (also Red-eyed dove), uSamdokwe [Zulu]; Haikonda (generic term for turtle dove) [Kwangali]; Leebana-khoroana (also applied to Red-eyed dove and Laughing dove), Lekunkuroane [South Sotho]; Leaba kgorwana [North Sotho]; Njiva (also applied to Laughing dove) [Shona]; Lituba (also applied to Laughing dove) [Swazi]; Tuva [Tsonga]; Leeba, Lephôi, Mhiri [Tswana]; Kaapse tortel [Dutch]; Tourterelle du Cap [French]; Kapturteltaube, Gurrtaube, Kaplachtaube [German]; Rola do Cabo [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Columbiformes > Family: Columbidae > Streptopelia

Streptopelia capicola (Cape Turtle Dove) Streptopelia capicola (Cape Turtle Dove)

Cape turtle-dove, Botswana. [photo Mike Grimes ©]

Cape turtle-dove. [photo H. Robertson ©]
Cape turtle-doves drinking at waterhole. [photo Peter Steyn ©]

The Cape turtle-dove is extremely common, and is found everywhere in southern Africa. It lives in most types of woodland, as well as farmland, suburban parks and gardens. It mainly eats seeds, as well as fruit, nectar, leaves and insects. It usually makes its own nest, out of twigs, leaves and roots, but can also use nests made by other birds. It lays 1-4 eggs, usually 2, which are incubated by both sexes, for 13-16 days. The nestlings stay in the nest for 16-17 days, after which they are dependent on their parents for 12 more days before becoming fully independent.

Distribution and habitat

Occurs from Ethiopia south through Tanzania, southern DRC, Zambia and Angola to southern Africa. It is one of the most prolific birds in southern Africa, occurring across the region in woodland, farmland, suburban parks and gardens. It often nests, roost and eats in and around alien trees, such as Port Jackson Willow (Acacia saligna), Rooikrans (Acacia cyclops), pines (Pinus) and eucalyptus trees (Eucalyptus).

Distribution of Cape turtle-dove in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Predators and parasites


It mainly eats seeds, supplemented with fruit, nectar, leaves and invertebrates. It usually forages on the ground, looking for seeds and fallen fruits. The following species have been recorded in its diet:

  • Plants
    • seeds:
      • cultivated plants
        • sorghum
        • grasses
        • maize
        • oats
        • lupins
      • Euphorbia (milkweeds)
      • Ulmus (alien elm)
      • Acacia
        • Acacia cyclops (Rooikrans)
        • Acacia saligna (Port Jackson Willow)
        • Acacia melanoxylon (Australian blackwood)
        • Acacia mearnsii (Black wattle)
      • Pinus (pines)
      • Quercus robur (Common oak acorns)
      • Eucalyptus camaldulensis (Red river gum)
    • fruits
      • Pyrecantha (Firethorns)
      • Rhus (Taaibos)
      • Lantana camara (Cherry-pie)
    • succulent leaves
      • mesems (Aizoaceae)
    • allen, protected sugar capsules of psyllids (Psyllidea) under Mopane trees (Colophospermum mopane).
    • nectar of Aloe marlothii (Mountain Aloe)
  • Invertebrates
    • earthworms
    • termites
    • weevils
    • aphids
    • locust hoppers


  • The female usually makes the nest in 3-8 days, doing most of the work in the early morning. The nest is a small platform of twigs, grass, roots and sometimes pine needles, usually about 15cm wide. It is typically placed in the fork of a tree, surrounded by dense foliage and often in suburban gardens or parks. Sometimes, the female will repair a nest from the previous season, instead of making a new one. It also uses nests of other birds, such as doves and pigeons, egrets, thrushes and sparrows.
  • Egg-laying season is year-round, peaking from August-November in winter rainfall areas.
  • It lays 1-2, rarely 4 eggs, which are incubated by both parents for about 13-16 days; the male incubates from about 10h00-16h00 and the female does the rest.
  • Once the chicks hatch, the egg shells are immediately thrown out of the nest. They are fed and brooded by both parents, leaving the nest for the adjacent bush after about 16-17 days. They are dependent on their parents for approximately 12 more days.


Not threatened, in fact common in most areas of southern Africa. Hunted for sport and food, but this does not seem to damage its population significantly.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.