Turtle Dove – remarkable record of an apparent albino

Can it be anything else?

Received these photos and comment from Willem-Jan of a remarkable looking white dove. I concur, it looks like a Turtle Dove in bill structure, overall weight, primary projection and according to his field impression. Any comments? Has anyone come across similar in the past? Thee Turtle Dove has undergone dramatic decline in the UK and also in the Netherlands and sparked some inspiring conservation and fund-raising projects, such as here and here.

Read on. Cheers Martin

Willem-Jan Hooijmans

“Hi Martin,

Hope all is well.

I would like to share the following pictures and thoughts with you.

Albinistic Turtle Dove (1) , Lisse, The Netherlands, 11 July 2014 (W J Hooijmans)

On Friday 11 July I digiscoped, which I believe to be, an albinistic Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur) in my area. As you can imagine, initially I was  flabbergasted and in disbelief, dismissing the bird as a feral dove, as I had never seen an albinistic Turtle Dove  before. Furthermore, up until then I had been completely unaware of the existence of albinistic Turtle Doves, having never come across any pictures, documented sightings or references in the available literature. However, I quickly regained my senses and decided to try to digiscope the bird because I was convinced that the bird must indeed be a Turtle Dove and I wanted to have proof of my sighting. The bird in the pictures flew like a Turtle Dove (rocky and pitching flight), acted like a Turtle Dove (kept well hidden in a high poplar, where,  perhaps quite surprisingly, it could be hard to spot, and was alert), had the posture and size of a Turtle Dove, showed structural features of a Turtle Dove (e.g. the bare skin surrounding the eye) and showed up in an area (overgrown orchard) where I annually see “normal” Turtle Doves and hardly, if ever, Collared Doves. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear the bird call, which would have clinched the ID beyond any reasonable doubt, but, still, on the basis of what I had seen I could not but conclude that the bird was indeed a Turtle Dove.

I have the following questions for you:

– do you agree with my identification of the bird in the pictures as a Turtle Dove? YES!

– if so, do you know of the existence of documented sightings of albinistic Turtle Doves in the UK or anywhere else in the world? NO- but will ask our readers…

Look very much forward to hearing from you, when you have a chance.

Please feel free to put my pictures with your own comments on your excellent Birding Frontiers website for a lively discussion.

Cheers, Willem-Jan Hooijmans”

Sassenheim, The Netherlands

Albinistic Turtle Dove (2) , Lisse, The Netherlands, 11 July 2014 (W J Hooijmans)

10 thoughts on “Turtle Dove – remarkable record of an apparent albino

  1. Carolyn

    A true albino would have red eyes. Maybe cross with feral pigeon. We have a wood pigeon cross feral here.

    1. Willem-Jan Hooijmans

      I can put your mind at ease regarding the colour of the eyes. The quality of the picture is not good enough to show the true colour of the eyes, but the eyes of the bird were dark red in the field. To my eyes the bird showed all the structural features of a Turtle Dove. So far I cannot see any evidence for a hybrid, but I would be happy to be convinced otherwise.

  2. Colin Slator

    I think Don is right – a Java Dove, which is not a true species but an hybrid. If it were a true albinistic of any species it should have pink eyes.

    1. Willem-Jan Hooijmans

      A Java Dove or White Dove is certainly a serious contender, but that doesn’t quite explain the bird’s behaviour, certain structural features (even including the vague onset of what looks like a striped neck patch when you have a close look at the 2nd photograph) and the coincidence of it turning up in an area that still annually holds 1 or 2 “normal” or “regular” Turtle Doves. How sure can you be to rule out Turtle Dove? The bird seems at least “albinistic” to me, but I will gladly leave it up to the experts to determine whether it is a true albino. The bird did not have pink eyes. That’s for sure. The eyes appeared dark red under field conditions. Have (partially) albinistic Turtle Doves ever been recorded in the UK? I am about to leave for a 3-week holiday in Scotland, so won’t be able to respond for the next 3 weeks, but I very much appreciate everybody’s input.

  3. linosabirding

    the red or pink eyes in albinistic birds is simply a legend….. there are SO MANY cases of proven albinistic or leucistic birds with no red eye or pink aye at all 🙂 it is simply often the case but not always or necesserly 🙂

  4. Toño Salazar

    Everything is OK for a true albino: all white (partial albinos does not exist!), red eyes, pinkish bill and legs… I think it can be a turtle dove (you can find some pics in Google), but who knows if of domestic origin…

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