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Dutch Birding volume 32 (2010) no 2


Oriental Turtle Dove at Wergea in January-February 2010

From 9 January to 26 February 2010, an Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis stayed at the small village of Wergea (Warga), Friesland, the Netherlands. The bird may have been present already in December 2009, with unconfirmed sightings from 24 December and later dates. Probably, the bird was caught by a Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipter nisus on the last date.

Identification was based on a full set of characters to separate the bird from European Turtle Dove S turtur (which is very rare in winter in the Netherlands). Only a combination of several characters can safely separate orientalis from turtur. Most important were: 1 extensive dark centre to scapulars and wing-coverts with relatively narrow brown surrounding (centre more pointed and surrounding broader in turtur); 2 breast relatively dark brownish pink and reaching belly (paler and more sharply demarcated from pale belly in turtur); 3 contrast between greyish-brown forecrown and brown rear head/hindneck (uniform in most turtur); 4 rump mostly blue-grey with very limited brown coloration (more brownish in turtur); 5 dark-grey underwing (paler in turtur); 6 limited red eye-ring, very limited behind eye (more prominent and pointed behind eye in turtur); 7 some black on outer web of outermost tail-feather (usually outer web wholly white in turtur); 8 contrast between dark centre and surrounding of scapulars and wing-coverts diffuse (sharper in turtur); 9 pale tips of median and greater wing-coverts forming two indistinctive wing-bars (absent in turtur); 10 distinctive pale tips to primaries (inconspicuous in turtur); 11 pale bill-tip (absent in turtur); 12 neck-patch consisting of very narrow black bars and blue-grey bars (bars broader and pale bars whiter in turtur); and 13 primary-coverts dark with narrow pale fringe (less dark and usually with more extensive pale fringe in turtur). The difference in wing-tip shape and the number of visible primaries in perched birds may be helpful but is considered of limited value because it strongly depends on the posture of the bird (and influence of moult). The bird belonged to the western subspecies S o meena, based on, eg, the white tail-tips, pale lower belly and vent and relatively small size. During its stay, the bird showed 'split moult': at first there were no signs of active moult but photographs taken on 31 January and 11 February showed active moult of the primaries (with p4 dropped).

An overview is given of the occurrence of Oriental Turtle Dove in Europe (87 records involving 89 individuals; see table 1) and the patterns are analyzed in figure 1-5. There has been a strong increase in the number of observations since 1984, probably helped by increasing knowledge about the identification and separation from turtur (figure 1). Most birds have been found in October-January (70%; figure 2). Of the 40 birds identified or accepted to subspecies level, meena (25) proved to be more common than nominate orientalis (15). Comparison of the patterns of nominate orientalis and meena shows some differences (figure 3-4). For instance, nominate orientalis has been found more often in January (22%, meena 14%). There are clear differences in occurrence for southern and northern Europe (figure 5). In Scandinavia, most birds have been found in winter months and many stayed for longer periods (with some returning in subsequent winters). In southern Europe, almost all observations are during migrating periods (April, May and September).

If accepted, this is the first record of Oriental Turtle Dove for the Netherlands. A bird on 14-18 November 1973 at Groot Eiland, Hulst, Zeeland, was unsufficiently documented. On 27-30 December 2008, an escaped bird stayed in Oudesluis, Noord-Holland. This bird was wearing a ring from Tierpark (TP) Berlin, Germany, and had escaped from a bird trader 3-4 km away at 't Zand, Noord-Holland.

Enno B Ebels, Joseph Haydnlaan 4, 3533 AE Utrecht, Nederland
Gerrit Nijboer, De Skuorre 2, 9005 RR Wergea, Nederland
Peter P de Vries, p/a Rijksstraatweg 6, 3631 AC Nieuwersluis, Nederland