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10 Fascinating Facts about the Blue-spotted Wood-Dove

The Blue-spotted Wood-Dove, also known as Turtur afer, is a beautiful bird that can be found in the forests and savannas of sub-Saharan Africa. In this article, we will explore the identification of this species, including its physical characteristics, how to differentiate it from other similar species, its plumages, molts, and other interesting facts that make the Blue-spotted Wood-Dove a unique bird.


The Blue-spotted Wood-Dove is a medium-sized bird, measuring about 20 centimeters in length, and weighing around 100 grams. Its body is predominantly brown, with a bluish-grey head, a pinkish-brown breast, and a greenish back.

The bird has a distinctive blue patch on its neck that gives it its name. Its wings are short and round, and its tail is slightly rounded.



When observing the Blue-spotted Wood-Dove, it shows a distinctive slow and deep wingbeats and a characteristic hovering flight with dangling legs. The bird is quite shy and tends to hide in thick vegetation, making it challenging to spot.

One can listen for its call, which is a soft and rhythmic “too-too-too,” sounding like someone tapping a stick on a hollow log. The call is usually heard around sunrise and sunset and may last for several minutes.

Similar Species

It is easy to confuse the Blue-spotted Wood-Dove with other species in the same genus, such as the Tambourine Dove and the Black-billed Wood-Dove. The Tambourine Dove is slightly smaller than the Blue-spotted Wood-Dove, lacks the blue patch on its neck, and has a yellow eye-ring.

The Black-billed Wood-Dove, on the other hand, has a black bill, unlike the reddish-brown bill of the Blue-spotted Wood-Dove.


Most Dove species have only two molts per year, which means that their feathers change twice: once during the breeding season and again during the non-breeding season. However, the Blue-spotted Wood-Dove displays three distinct plumages in the course of a year.

Adult birds have three plumages: the breeding, non-breeding, and immature. The breeding plumage of the Blue-spotted Wood-Dove is characterized by a more vibrant and glossy appearance, with brighter colors on the head and neck, and fewer scales on the breast.

The non-breeding plumage is less distinct, with duller colors and more scales visible. Immature birds are similar to adults but have a more muted appearance and fewer blue spots on their necks.


The Blue-spotted Wood-Dove will have multiple molts throughout their lives. The first important molt occurs when the bird is just six to eight weeks old, and it replaces its original downy feathers with juvenile feathers.

The next major molts occur during the first year of life, when the bird will change their juvenile feathers for new ones twice: once during the breeding season and again during the non-breeding season. As the bird matures, molting slows down to become an annual event.

Adult birds molting typically occurs in late summer to early autumn, after the breeding season. During this time, birds will replace their old feathers with new ones slowly, over several months.


In summary, the Blue-spotted Wood-Dove or Turtur afer is a medium-sized bird with unique physical characteristics. Its distinctive blue patch on its neck sets it apart from other Dove species, and its hovering flight with dangling legs is a sight to see.

With its three plumages and various molts throughout its life, this bird is truly a marvel to observe and appreciate. It is always a joy to learn about the Blue-spotted Wood-Dove and the fascinating world of birds.

As with most bird species, the Blue-spotted Wood-Dove’s systematics and historical distribution have undergone many changes over the years. In this article, we will delve further into the history of the Blue-spotted Wood-Dove, including its geographic variation, subspecies, related species, and historical changes to its distribution.

Systematics History

The Blue-spotted Wood-Dove has long been classified as a member of the Columbidae family, which includes all pigeons and doves. However, advances in genetic analysis have led to the recent revision of the family, and the Blue-spotted Wood-Dove is now classified in the family Streptopeliidae, which also includes doves commonly known as “fruit doves.”

Geographic Variation

The Blue-spotted Wood-Dove is found throughout sub-Saharan Africa, from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia and Tanzania in the east. This geographic range includes several different habitats, including savannahs, open woodlands, and forests.


Within this broad geographic range, there are several different subspecies of the Blue-spotted Wood-Dove, each with subtle differences in their physical appearance. The following are the recognized subspecies:

– T.

a. afer: Found in Senegal and Gambia, this subspecies is slightly smaller than other subspecies and has less extensive blue markings on its neck.

– T. a.

chubbi: This subspecies is found in the wetter regions of West Africa, including Sierra Leone and Liberia. It is larger and darker than T.

a. afer, with a broader yellow eye-ring.

– T. a.

dunni: Found in the savannas of East Africa, this subspecies is larger than T. a.

afer and has more extensive blue markings on its neck. – T.

a. reichenowi: This subspecies is restricted to parts of Kenya and Tanzania.

It is the largest of all the Blue-spotted Wood-Dove subspecies, with a more purplish-blue neck patch.

Related Species

The Blue-spotted Wood-Dove belongs to the genus Turtur, which includes several other dove species found across Africa. Some of the closest relatives of the Blue-spotted Wood-Dove include:

– Turtur abyssinicus: This species is found in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya and shares a similar habitat with the Blue-spotted Wood-Dove.

– Turtur brehmeri: This species is found in Cameroon, Central African Republic, and the Republic of the Congo. It is smaller than the Blue-spotted Wood-Dove and has a more uniform reddish-brown coloration.

– Turtur tympanistria: This species is also known as the Tambourine Dove and is found across sub-Saharan Africa. It is similar in size to the Blue-spotted Wood-Dove but lacks the blue neck patch.

Historical Changes to Distribution

The Blue-spotted Wood-Dove has been widely distributed throughout sub-Saharan Africa for many years. However, like many species, its distribution has undergone significant changes over time.

In particular, habitat loss, hunting, and capture for the pet trade have all had an impact on the bird’s distribution.

Habitat loss has had a significant impact on the Blue-spotted Wood-Dove’s distribution. The species is primarily found in wooded habitats, and deforestation for agriculture, logging, and other land uses have led to the loss of suitable habitat.

This has had a particularly significant impact in West Africa, where the species has become scarcer in recent decades. Hunting of the Blue-spotted Wood-Dove for meat and capture for the pet trade have also had an impact on the bird’s distribution.

In some parts of Africa, the species is still hunted for food, and its habit of perching in trees makes it an easy target for hunters. The pet trade has also had an impact, with thousands of birds captured each year across the continent and exported to markets in Europe and Asia.

Such pressures have led to declines in some populations of the species, particularly in parts of West Africa.


The Blue-spotted Wood-Dove is a fascinating bird species found across sub-Saharan Africa. Its systematics and distribution have both undergone significant changes over time, and the bird faces ongoing threats such as habitat loss, hunting, and the pet trade.

Understanding these changes and threats is crucial for the conservation of this unique species, and ongoing efforts by conservation organizations and governments are essential to ensure the species’ survival for years to come. In addition to its systematics history, geographic variation, subspecies, and related species, there are other fascinating features of the Blue-spotted Wood-Dove that we will explore in this article.

Specifically, we will delve into the habitats in which the bird is found, as well as its movements and migration patterns.


The Blue-spotted Wood-Dove is primarily found in wooded habitats, including forests, woodlands, and forest edges. The bird is particularly fond of savannahs, which provide a mixture of open grasslands and scattered trees, where it can forage on the ground and roost in the trees.

The Blue-spotted Wood-Dove can also be found in riparian forests and mangroves, where it feeds on the fruits of the trees. The species’ preference for wooded habitats means that ongoing habitat loss and fragmentation pose significant threats to its long-term survival.

Movements and Migration

The Blue-spotted Wood-Dove is a mostly sedentary species, meaning that it generally stays in one place all year round. However, there is evidence that some populations of the bird may undertake short-distance movements during the non-breeding season.

For example, birds in West Africa have been observed moving from areas of high rainfall during the wet season to areas of low rainfall during the dry season, possibly in search of more abundant food sources.

The Blue-spotted Wood-Dove is not known to undertake long-distance migration, unlike some other bird species that travel thousands of kilometers each year. However, there is some evidence to suggest that the bird may undertake altitudinal movements, moving up and down slopes with altitudinal changes in vegetation and climate.

In addition to short-distance movements, the Blue-spotted Wood-Dove is known to make regular daily movements between its roosting and foraging areas. The bird is active during the day and forages on the ground for fallen fruits, seeds, and insects.

It prefers to roost in trees and has a distinctive habit of perching on branches, where it can remain still for long periods. The daily movements of the Blue-spotted Wood-Dove are influenced by various factors, including the availability of food and water, seasonality, and the presence of predators.

During the breeding season, the birds may also engage in courtship displays, which can involve short flights or chases through the trees.


The Blue-spotted Wood-Dove is a fascinating bird species found across sub-Saharan Africa, with a preference for wooded habitats. The bird is mostly sedentary, although there is evidence that some populations may undertake short-distance movements during the non-breeding season.

The daily movements of the Blue-spotted Wood-Dove are influenced by various ecological and social factors, making it an intriguing species to study. As we continue to learn more about the bird’s habitat, movements, and behaviors, we can better understand how to protect it for generations to come.

The Blue-spotted Wood-Dove is a fascinating bird species that displays unique qualities in terms of its diet and foraging behavior, as well as its vocalization. In this article, we will delve into the various features of the bird’s feeding habits and vocal behavior, shedding light on some of the intriguing behaviors of this species.

Diet and Foraging


The Blue-spotted Wood-Dove is an opportunistic feeder that forages on the ground for fallen fruits, seeds, and insects. The bird has a habit of perching on low branches, from where it can scan the ground for potential food items.

The species is particularly fond of figs, which make up a significant portion of its diet. It is also known to feed on the fruits of other trees such as guava and mango.

Insects such as termites and beetles are also consumed, and the birds may sometimes catch flying insects in mid-air.


The Blue-spotted Wood-Dove is not known to drink water regularly, as it can obtain the water it needs from the fruits and insects it feeds on. This allows the bird to avoid having to visit water sources and possibly increase its risk of predation.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

The Blue-spotted Wood-Dove has adapted to cope with the high temperatures and water scarcity that it faces in the savannas and other habitats it occupies. In particular, the bird has an efficient metabolism that allows it to conserve fluids by excreting highly concentrated urine.

The bird also uses other strategies to regulate its body temperature, such as panting and seeking shade. During the hottest parts of the day, the bird may become inactive, perching in the shade of trees to avoid direct sunlight.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior


The Blue-spotted Wood-Dove has an interesting vocal repertoire that includes several types of sounds, including cooing, clucking, and bubbling. The bird’s vocalizations are used for a variety of purposes, including courtship and territorial defense.

The typical call of the Blue-spotted Wood-Dove is a low-pitched cooing “too-too-too” sound, which can be heard throughout the day. The call has a rhythmic quality and is often given in a series of repetitions, with each note becoming progressively faster.

The call is also used by mating pairs to maintain contact with each other when foraging. During courtship, the male Blue-spotted Wood-Dove will display by calling more frequently and loudly and may perform a series of postures such as puffing out its chest, raising its head, and fluffing its feathers.

These displays are designed to attract a mate and signal the male’s fitness. When defending its territory, the Blue-spotted Wood-Dove may adopt a more aggressive vocalization, known as a “hoot-growl.” This call is a guttural growling sound and is often accompanied by head-bobbing and wing-fluttering.

The call serves to warn off other birds from the territory and signal the bird’s dominance.


The Blue-spotted Wood-Dove is a fascinating bird species that displays unique features in terms of its feeding habits, metabolism, and vocalization. Its opportunistic feeding behavior, preference for figs, and adaptation to water scarcity illustrate the species’ adaptability, while its vocalizations reveal much about its social behavior.

Understanding such features is essential to the continued conservation of this species, and ongoing research into the Blue-spotted Wood-Dove and other bird species around the world is critical to preserving these unique creatures for future generations. In addition to habitat, movements, diet, and vocal behavior, the Blue-spotted Wood-Dove also displays fascinating behaviors related to locomotion, self-maintenance, agonistic and sexual behavior, breeding, and population demography.

Let us examine these qualities further.



The Blue-spotted Wood-Dove moves on the ground by hopping and walking, using its long legs to avoid obstacles. Its flight is characterized by slow, steady wingbeats, and a distinctive hovering flight with dangling legs when taking off.

Self Maintenance

Like most birds, the Blue-spotted Wood-Dove engages in preening, which involves using its bill to maintain its feathers. Preening helps to keep the feathers clean, remove any parasites or debris, and maintain the waterproofing ability of the feathers.

Agonistic Behavior

Agonistic behavior in the Blue-spotted Wood-Dove is related to territoriality, where the birds will defend their territory against other individuals of the same species. Such behavior may involve the hoot-growl vocalization used for territorial defense, as well as physical interactions such as pointing, running, or chasing.

Sexual Behavior

The Blue-spotted Wood-Dove mates monogamously during the breeding season and can form long-term pair bonds. The male performs courtship displays, including cooing, head-bobbing, and wing-fluttering, while the female may respond with preening, calling, and close proximity.


Breeding season for the Blue-spotted Wood-Dove varies depending on the geographic location. For breeding pairs, the male constructs a simple nest structure using sticks, twigs, and leaves, and the female lays one or two white eggs.

The incubation period is short, with the eggs hatching after about 14 days. Both parents share in incubating and feeding the chicks, with breeding pairs raising one or two broods per year.

Demography and Populations

The Blue-spotted Wood-Dove is listed as a species of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, despite habitat loss and hunting in some areas. It is generally considered to have stable populations across its range, although some isolated populations are threatened by habitat destruction.

Conservation efforts are ongoing to monitor population trends, assess potential threats, and protect vital habitats.


The behavior of the Blue-spotted Wood-Dove is as fascinating as it is diverse. The bird displays unique qualities related to locomotion, self-maintenance, agonistic, and sexual behavior, as well as breeding and population demography.

The bird’s ability to adapt to changing habitat conditions, engage with others of its species, and successfully reproduce is testament to its resilience and adaptability. As we continue to learn more about the Blue-spotted Wood-Dove and other bird species worldwide, we can better understand how to protect these creatures for future generations.

The Blue-spotted Wood

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