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Rare Birds in Spain


Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur at Llobregat delta, October 2005. Pitfall for Oriental Turtle Dove S.orientalis meena

Photos & text by Ricard Gutiérrez


On 15.10 afternoon (15-15:30 hours), a 1st winter dove first identified as Rufous Turle Dove S.orientalis meena was seen at 15 m distance merged in a flock of Collared Doves S.decaocto at Camí del Prat, Viladecans, Llobregat delta, Barcelona (Albert Burgas). A search conducted at the same place (coordinates UTM 31 T 041926, 4574019 -datum WGS84-) and nearby, from 18 hours till dusk gave no results (Ricard Gutiérrez). This was, if accepted, the 3rd record for Spain. On 16.10 it was relocated at 871 m distance in another place, Can Dimoni lagoon, Sant Boi de Llobregat (31T 0420403, 4573657 -datum WSG84-), and it was confirmed as a juv/1st winter bird (Ricard Gutiérrez , Marcel Gil). It proved elusive although it was associated to local Collared Doves too. It was later seen by other authors (Rafael Armada; Sergi Sales; José Luis Copete, Moisés Moreno, Xavier Escobar) that confirmed ageing (1st winter). All observers believed it was a meena Oriental Turtle Dove despite brief sightings, according to differences with local Turtle Doves we were used to see and that had left the area two months before. On 17.10 midday it was relocated again at the same place at Can Dimoni, sunning perched on a bank of the area (Ricard Gutiérrez). However, when photos were examined some doubts arised. 

Here are the photos of the bird. Once the photos were examined,some doubts particularly regarding the primary coverts pattern arised. Besides, some comments to the observers from French and Finnish authors pointed other wrong aspects such as eye-ring pattern or head colour.

This was, therefore, a very different Turtle Dove from those we are used to see in Spain. Were it did come from?

Photographs and comments

Photos by © Ricard Gutiérrez 

Identification of juvenile meena and telling from turtur is considered very difficult from the literature. Besides, study of the different material available in the literature proves a lot of individual variation. The Llobregat Delta area holds populations of turtur which had left for Africa already in August 2005. This bird was structurally bulkier and marginally broader winged than local turtur, looking heavier. Major eye-catching points were blue rump area, wing pattern and undertail-vent white areas. Note also rufous tones to all wing-feather edges.

The bird was a juvenile, lacking any collar, but careful examination shows two moulted Lesser Coverts, so a bird moulting to 1st winter would be more accurate. Although centres of coverts showed dark round areas, not shafts as in regular turtur, the brownish tips you can see in primary coverts point towards Streptopelia turtur. . Pattern of tertials though seem to be well within meena range, especially for the rufous ground colour and extent to inner web, despite a bit of the shaft can be noted in some photos that would again be enought to label as turtur the bird according to Finnish experts. Throat is here visibly whiter than breast.

Tertials were clearly rufous with dark centres. Note bluish rump and pale edges to primaries and secondaries (greyish). But head looks paler than mantle, another turtur character.

Compared with 'our' turtur this bird looked bulkier, bluish rumped and more rufous toned.  Edges to primaries were clear-cut.

Extent of the eye-ring was smaller to us compared to what we see in turtur. Note rounded centres to lesser and median coverts.At least a couple or three lesser coverts seem to be adult-type, with even darker centres.

The extent of rufous on the tertials was notable here.

Despite these photos, the bird could be hardly studied up to date because it was very difficult to locate and see perched. The orbital ring seemed grey and rather rounded (see thumbnail in the side too) while the eye looked pale orange. Note here how the newer lesser coverts contrast to the rest of the juvenile ones. The bird was seen in faded sunlight and in direct views the breast look darker than here. Note also the pale throat compared to the rest of the body.


Albert Burgas, the initial finder of the bird, on Saturday evening, decided to broadcast the news. Without him, this sighting, and all what we've learnt on the juvenile separation turtur/meena would not have been possible.

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Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur at Llobregat delta, October 2005. Pitfall for Oriental Turtle Dove S.orientalis meena

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