(Columba Turtur, Linn.—La Tourterelle, Buff.)
LENGTH somewhat more than twelve inches. Bill brown; eyes yellow, encompassed with a crimson circle; top of the head ash grey, mixed with olive; each side of the neck is marked with a spot of black feathers, tipped with white; the back is ash grey, each feather margined with reddish brown; wing coverts and scapulars reddish brown, spotted with black; quilt feathers dusky, edges pale; the fore part of the neck and the breast are light purplish red; the belly, thighs, and vent white; the two middle feathers of the tail brown, the others dusky, tipped with white, the two outermost also edged with the same: legs red. One of these birds, which was sent us by the Rev. Henry Ridley, was shot out of a flock at Prestwick-Car, in Northumberland, in the month of September, 1794; it agreed in every respect with the Common Turtle, excepting the mark on each side of the neck, which was wholly wanting: we suppose it to have been a young bird.
The note of the Turtle Dove is singularly tender and plaintive: in addressing his mate, the male makes use of a variety of winning attitudes, cooing at the same time in the most gentle and soothing accents; on which account this bird has been represented in all ages, as the most perfect emblem of connubial attachment and constancy. It arrives late in the spring, and departs about the latter end of August: frequenting the thickest and most sheltered parts of the woods, where it builds on the highest trees: the female lays two eggs, and has only one brood in this country, but in warmer climates it is supposed to breed several times in the year. Turtles are pretty common in Kent, where they are sometimes seen in flocks of twenty or more, frequenting the pea fields, and doing much damage. Their stay with us seldom exceeds four or five months, during which time they pair, breed, and rear their young, which are strong enough to join them in their retreat.
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