The spotted dove (Spilopelia chinensis) is a small and somewhat long-tailed pigeon which is a common resident breeding bird across its native range on the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia. The species has been introduced into many parts of the world and feral populations have become established. This species was formerly included in the genus Streptopelia with other turtle-doves, but studies suggest that they differ from typical members of that genus. This dove is long tailed buff brown with a white-spotted black collar patch on the back and sides of the neck. The tail tips are white and the wing coverts have light buff spots. There are considerable plumage variations across populations within its wide range. The species is found in light forests and gardens as well as in urban areas. They fly from the ground with an explosive flutter and will sometimes glide down to a perch. It is sometimes also called the mountain dove, pearl-necked dove or lace-necked dove.
The ground colour of this long and slim dove is rosy buff below shading grey on the head and belly. There is a half collar on the back and sides of the neck made of black feathers that bifurcate and have white spots at the two tips. The back has brown feathers with rufous spots in the Indian and subspecies. The lesser median coverts are grey brown. The Indian populations have these coverts with rosy spots at the tip divided by a widening dark grey streak along the shaft. The primary coverts are dark brown. The wing feathers are dark brow with grey edges. The centre of the abdomen and vent are white. The outer tail feathers are tipped in white and become visible when the bird takes off. Sexes are similar, but juveniles are duller than adults and do not acquire the neck spots until they are mature. The length ranges from 28 to 32 centimetres (11.2 to 12.8 inches).
Abnormal plumages such as leucism can sometimes occur in the wild.
This species was formerly included in the genus Streptopelia but a 2001 study based on molecular sequence as well as vocalization indicated that this along with Streptopelia senegalensis stood out from the remaining taxa then included in Streptopelia. This led subsequent authors to split them out into a separate genus. Carl Sundevall had erected the genus Stigmatopelia with the type senegalensis while also creating the genus Spilopelia (for chinensis, suratensis and tigrina, then treated as separated species) on the same page of his 1872 book. Some authors used Stigmatopelia arguing that it has priority as it appears first on the page. Schodde and Mason in their zoological catalogue of Australian birds however chose Spilopelia based on 24(b) of the ICZN Code which defers the decision to that of the first reviser.
Several subspecies have been proposed for the plumage and size variation seen in different geographic populations. The nominate form is from China (Canton), which is also the origin of the introduced population in Hawaii. Subspecies formosa from Taiwan has been considered as doubtful and indistinguishable from the nominate population. The population in India suratensis (type locality Surat) and ceylonensis from Sri Lanka have fine rufous or buff spots on the back. There is a size reduction trend with specimens from southern India being smaller and ceylonensis may merely be a part of this cline. The lesser and median wing-coverts are also spotted at the tip in buff. This spotting is lacking on populations further north and east of India such as tigrina which also differ greatly in vocalizations from the Indian forms. The population from Hainan Island is placed in hainana. Others like vacillans (=chinensis) and forresti (= tigrina) and edwardi (from Chabua = suratensis) have been considered invalid.