Turtle Dove

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TURTLE DOVE (Heb. תּוֹר, an onomatopoeic word), the Streptopelia turtur. Large flights arrive in Israel in spring, and their cooing, which fills the wood, heralds the advent of spring (Song 2:12). It nests in trees and lays two clutches of eggs. In October it migrates to southern countries, returning in the spring, and Jeremiah states that the exact times of its migrations were known (8:7). Like the dove, the turtle dove was used for various sacrifices (Lev. 5:7; 12:6; Num. 6:10). It was included among the birds Abraham offered at the covenant between the pieces (Gen. 15:9). It symbolizes the innocent Israelite nation against whom its enemies plot (Ps. 74:19). In a passage which advocates that "one should be ever of the persecuted, but not of the persecutors," the Talmud states that no birds are more persecuted than turtle doves and young pigeons – yet the Bible regarded only them as worthy of being offered upon the altar (bk 93a). The turtle dove, a beautiful bird with colorful feathers, is recognizable by the bright stripes at the side of its neck. A closely related species, Streptopelia senegalensis, the palm dove, is found in Israel throughout the year, and lays its eggs on roofs and eaves.


I. Aharoni, Torat ha-Ḥai (1923), 192–3; J. Feliks, Animal World of the Bible (1962), 55. add. bibliography: Feliks, Ha-Tzome'aḥ, 286.

[Jehuda Feliks]