The red-eyed dove was formally described by the German naturalist Eduard Rüppell in 1835 from birds seen in the Taranta Mountains of Eritrea. He coined the binomial name Columba semitorquata. The specific epithet is combines the Latin semi- meaning "half-" or "small" and torquatus meaning "collared". The species is monotypic: no subspecies are recognised.
Red-eyed dove is a largish, stocky pigeon, typically 30 cm (12 inches) in length. Its back, wings and tail are pale brown. When flying, it shows blackish flight feathers. The head and underparts are dark vinous-pink, shading to pale grey on the face. There is a black hind neck patch edged with white. The legs and a patch of bare skin around the eye are red. The call is a loud doo-doo-du-du.
Sexes are similar, but juveniles are duller than adults, and have scalloping on the body feathers.
Red-eyed doves eat grass seeds, grains and other vegetation. They often forage on the ground.
It is distributed through most of sub-Saharan Africa except in desert zones. It is a common, if not abundant, species in most habitats other than desert. Like several other species in this genus, they are not particularly gregarious and often feed alone or in pairs. They can be found in forests near rivers.
Females lay two white eggs at a time. This species builds a stick nest in a tree and lays two white eggs. Its flight is quick, with the regular beats and an occasional sharp flick of the wings which are characteristic of pigeons in general.