Saving Species

Our work

Our work
You might be surprised to read that our work is far broader than nature reserves and Big Garden Birdwatch. Read more about what else we do.

Saving Species

The need for species conservation has never been greater. Despite notable successes in improving the fortunes of a number of bird species, more are being forced onto the list of those that need attention, both globally and in the UK. If we want to have a
  • What a wonderful Finance Minister! (Bangladesh’s vultures have a new ally)

    Thanks to Chris Bowden, our Globally Threatened Species Officer & SAVE Programme Manager, we have an update from warmer climes!

    Our 4th annual SAVE meeting was held in Dhaka last month and the inaugural session was pleased to have Mr. Abul Maal A Muhith, Bangladesh’s Honourable Finance Minister as Chief Guest. But we were all delighted by the Minister’s totally supportive speech on the great importance of vultures, on the urgency of removing diclofenac, and even ketoprofen which is also known to be unsafe but popular with vets (a step that none of the neighbouring countries have yet taken). This was a truly memorable moment!  All of this in front of five national TV channels and many more press, which since Mr. Abul Maal A Muhith is second only to the Prime Minister is hardly surprising I guess?

    The SAVE meeting went very well, and updated the SAVE priorities, and the  ‘Blueprint for Recovery of South Asia’s Critically Endangered Gyps vultures’ with all five SAVE countries and the thirteen Partners all reporting and working together. It was especially pleasing to see major progress being made in Bangladesh particularly over the past one year, and there was further excitement during the post-meeting excursion when participants observed the first Bangladesh Slender-billed vulture for thirty years!

     We all look forward to seeing progress in Bangladesh, (there are less than 500 vultures left in total, so the urgency is clear) and our sincere thanks to IUCN Bangladesh and the Forest Department for making us all so welcome. Mr Muhith’s support however may be the vultures’ greatest hope for the future. Further updates and report with follow on


    Photo credit: Sarowar Alam Dipu/IUCN : The Hon Finance Minister of Bangladesh (right) addressing the 4th SAVE Meeting in Dhaka.





  • Birds of Christmas Present

    Thanks to Tara Proud, the RSPB's International Species Recovery Officer for this post:

    I am passionately committed to turtle dove conservation and I’m lucky enough to manage Operation Turtle Dove. This year the Operation Turtle Dove project team have lots of great progress to celebrate and I want to share some of these successes with you.

    Birds Without Borders

    Just this week I have been working with similarly passionate conservationists from Birdlife International partners from across the turtle dove flyway, this is part of Birds Without Borders. We’re linking up and building upon turtle dove conservation work from the UK and along the flyway through western Europe (The Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, France), northern Africa (Morocco) to their wintering grounds in sub-Saharan Africa. Together we are committed to saving this species – and stopping them from becoming a Bird of Christmas Past.

    Making a Real Difference on the Ground

    In April we were able to employ two full time turtle dove advisers, who have so far given advice to farmers and landowners on providing turtle dove friendly habitat on over 15,000 hectares of land, this is an area larger than Bristol! These advisors are working across turtle doves core range. Between them they cover the counties of Kent, Sussex, Essex and Suffolk which support over 50% of the UK breeding population of turtle doves.

    In addition, private landowners including schools, campsites, landfill sites and nature reserves have also been provided with advice to establish targeted turtle dove habitat on their grounds.

    If you farmer, land owner or land manager in Kent, Sussex, Essex or Suffolk you could play a critical part for the conservation of turtle doves, to help us to save this species please contact us on this email address to find out how, we would love to hear from you.

    Tristan Reid and Jonny Rankin are two of Operation Turtle Doves biggest supports and this year they have lots to be happy about... not least raising an incredible £5000 to support important turtle dove conservation work

    Generous Support for Turtle Dove Conservation

    This year Tristan Reid, Jonny Rankin and the Dove Step team have gone to incredible lengths to raise funds and awareness for Operation Turtle Dove. Tristan has run '1000 miles for Martha' in 14 marathons and Jonny and the Dove Step team have walked 300 miles in 13 days. Jonny also joined Tristan for his final and 14th marathon of the year in October. Supporters sponsored their efforts and together they have raised more than £5000 this year. Fundraising efforts like these help support vital turtle dove conservation work.

    Both Tristan and Jonny have turtle dove fundraising plans for 2015 too, including an ambitious Dovestep 2 which will include kayaking cycling and walking from England to the Spanish border, reflecting the route of the dove's migratory journey. Tristan plans to run a minimum of 2,000 miles including 20 marathon distances.

    Important Advances in Turtle Dove Science

    Right at the start of this year, RSPB scientist Dr Jenny Dunn and PhD student Rebecca Thomas began turtle dove research on their wintering grounds in Senegal. This research was the start of a project to understand how to protect turtle doves when they are in Africa.

    Jenny has been leading research on turtle dove breeding grounds in England for the past three summers, and 2014 saw successful completion of the fieldwork for this part of the project. This research has been focussed on looking for a link between availability of food and the health and breeding success of the birds. Follow this link to learn more about this research and if you want to support more of this important turtle dove research, please donate here.

    JENNY DUNN RELEASING A TURTLE DOVE - In 2014 we have made important advances in turtle dove science which is being used to inform our conservation work

    New Support for Turtle Doves

    Beyond our work advising farmers about turtle dove friendly habitat management, we are also working in partnership with CEMEX UK to provide turtle doves with the habitat they need when they come to the England to breed. CEMEX are one of the world's largest building materials suppliers and cement producers. Together we have begun a three year conservation project at four carefully chosen CEMEX quarries in central England. This is because CEMEX quarries have the potential to support this threatened bird. The quarries offer a suitable habitat with dense scrub and water.  The project involves growing a special flower mix to provide the bird’s ideal food complemented by the nesting habitat.

    Conservation Grade have been working hard with farmers along the turtle dove flyway to provide safe passage and the habitat turtle doves need when they make their migration through Europe. You can help turtle doves by buying Fair to Nature products from Steve’s Leaves as these are sourced from turtle dove friendly farms in Portugal.

    So I hope you’ll agree that we have made some really exciting progress for turtle dove conservation this year. But we must not lose sight of the scale of the challenge we face to save this beautiful bird, if you want to support our continued conservation efforts please donate here.


    Simon Tonkin will write the final blog in this festive series of blogs, about ‘Birds of Christmas Future’, in which he’ll talk about our future plans for turtle dove conservation.

  • Radio tagging turtle doves to investigate nesting productivity

    This month Dr Jenny Dunn, RSPB Conservation Scientist gave a presentation on her research on turtle doves nesting in the UK at a conference hosted by the British Ecological Society (BES) and the Société Française d’Ecologie (SFE) in Lille.

    One of the major drivers of turtle dove decline is the reduced number of breeding attempts per pair. Breeding productivity of individual pairs has dropped from up to 4 nests per pair per year in the 1960s, to 1-2 today. So, our research has focussed on find out what affects the breeding productivity of turtle doves. This summer we radio tagged 10 adult turtle doves and located their nests, checked the number of eggs and recorded the number of chicks fledged.

    We are trying to raise money to help fund the next phase of this research to find out if the adult foraging location and food supplied to the young affects chick survival. This work would be carried out at Cardiff University. You can make a donation towards this research online.

    Fieldwork diary – Dr Jenny Dunn
    Read Jenny’s fieldwork diary from summer 2014 as she radiotags adult turtle doves and searches for their nests.

    Radio tagging adult turtle doves
    Viper, one of our adult female turtle doves, was tagged in Essex in summer 2014. She was feeding at a temporary bait site set out on one of the 12 farms across East Anglia where we focus our Turtle Dove research.

    The radiotag emits a ‘beep’ unique to the individual tag which can be picked up with our tag receiver, allowing us to monitor the whereabouts of each bird remotely.

    Viper, one of the turtle doves tracked during summer 2014 by Alex Ball. Help us find out what she fed her chicks by making a donation to fund our research? 

    For a few days, Viper had been in the same place mornings and evenings, so now we suspected she was sitting on a nest.

    Searching for turtle dove nests
    So here we were, at a private fishing lake in Essex. The lake is surrounded by perfect turtle dove habitat - steep banks covered in hawthorn, blackthorn, bramble and rose bushes.

    We identified a likely bush as Viper’s nest site. I call it a bush: this so-called bush is in bramble thicket. The following morning, we returned with more volunteers and thorn-proof clothing.

    Thick bramble - ideal turtle dove nesting habitat by Alex Ball. 

    To reduce disturbance to both the site and the bird we needed to find the nest quickly, check the nest for eggs and leave the bird in peace.

    The tag signal seemed to be coming from the very centre of the bramble thicket, which meant only one thing: someone would have to go in. Rebecca, carrying out her PhD research on the Trichomonas gallinae parasite in turtle dove populations, valiantly volunteered.

    Using long poles and radiotracking kit we guided Rebecca towards the source of the strongest signal. Armed with thick thorn proof clothing Rebecca crawled in. Rebecca worked her way in towards the signal and sure enough we were shortly caught sight of Viper . Apparently unfazed by the movements from all around her, she was sat tightly on a nest.

    Brilliant – we had found the nest
    With a little gentle persuasion she moved aside to reveal two eggs. Fantastic! We carefully and quickly withdrew so we could leave her and her nest in peace.

    We set up a datalogger a few metres away from the nest. The datalogger monitors the radiotag remotely, storing the data for us to download next time we are nearby.

    We return to check on her every couple of days after this, as well as monitoring where she went to feed whilst off the nest.

    Two chicks leave the nest
    Both her chicks – named Adder and Asp – successfully left the nest, although unfortunately Asp was predated by a mammal shortly afterwards.

    We radiotagged Adder to confirm that he survived past fledging, and we saw him around the reservoir several times. The last signal we received from Adder was from a site 2km away from the reservoir. At this point the battery on his radiotag stopped but hopefully he is now in Africa

    Visit our website to find out more about our work on turtle doves.