I don’t see tambourine doves in the garden as much as I used to and in any event they are shy and skittish, so the other day when I looked out of the window and saw a tambourine dove foraging on the ground I fetched my camera.

At first, the tambourine dove (Turtur tympanistria) was at quite some distance and picking up seeds among the fallen fruits of a tree fuchsia (Halleria lucida). It was unaware of me watching it from a window and unusually it came out into the open to enjoy some sunbathing before coming closer still as it looked for food in the lawn.

Difficult to photograph in dappled light and quite some distance away, the tambourine dove was eating fallen seeds among green fruits from a tree fuchsia that had dropped from the tree. Tambourine doves mostly forage on the ground, eating seeds and fruits. They are also known to eat termites and molluscs.

Unexpectedly, the tambourine dove moved out into the sunshine and lifted a wing as it sunbathed. The wings are an unexpected auburn in colour and are in striking contrast to the bright white face, throat and underparts.

The dove closed its wings and stayed motionless for a time, apparently enjoying the sunshine. The male dove is very white on the face, throat and underparts, whereas the female has a buffy grey wash on the upper breast and throat.

After sunbathing for a while, the tambourine dove stood up to indulge in a brief preening session. The dark almost purple iridescent spots on the wings can be seen.

The tambourine dove then moved closer to forage on the lawn in a patch of shade. When closer, the dove did seem to become aware of my presence behind the window, as can be seen in the header photo where the dove seems to be glancing in my direction.

Regarding the name ‘tambourine dove’, both the common name and the scientific name, Turtur tympanistria, refer to the dove’s rhythmic and resonating call. In Ancient Greek mythology, Timpanistria was the name of a priestess who used drums and tambourines in ceremonies honouring the goddess Cybele. For recordings of the call of the tambourine dove go to https://www.xeno-canto.org/explore?query=tambourine%20dove

Although seemingly aware of my presence, suddenly the tambourine dove stretched out one leg and lifted its wings, displaying the auburn colouring of the wings once again.

It then completed its stretching by fanning out one wing showing the beautiful plumage.

It then recommenced searching for food before flying down to the bird bath for a brief drink of water.

Tambourine doves are surprisingly small. At an average length of 22 cm and weight of 70 g, they are even smaller than the laughing doves, and considerably smaller than red-eyed doves that average 35 cm in length and 155 g in weight.

After a short drink of water, the tambourine dove paused on the edge of the bird bath before flying off. It was only by luck that I had seen the dove through the window, and watching it was very special as this is the best sighting I have had of this lovely dove, which I hear calling more often than I see.

I have a special fondness for doves and pigeons, and over time there have been several posts on the doves that visit our garden. Here are a few of them:

Love doves (You don’t know what you’ve got til its gone)

Redeyed doves, turtle doves, monogamy and sacrifice

Favourite garden birds: Laughing doves

The forest dwelling lemon dove

The dancing dove

P.S. I am happy to report that my husband has made really good progress towards recovery this week. Thanks again for all the good wishes and kind support.


Chittenden, Hugh, Davies, Greg & Weiersbye, Ingrid. 2016. Roberts Bird Guide: Illustrating nearly 1,000 Species in Southern Africa (2nd edition). Cape Town: Jacana.

Roberts VII Multimedia Birds of Southern Africa: PC Edition.  1997-2016 Southern African Birding. For details go to http://www.sabirding.co.za/roberts7/portal.html

Posted by Carol