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Turtle doves given Hope!

Last modified: 13 March 2013

Alice and sister - Operation Turtle Dove prize

Competition winner Alice, with her sister.

Image: Jo Stavert-Dobson


Turtle doves are one of the most endangered birds in the UK. But, with thanks to the creative charm of a 6 year old girl from Sheffield, the UK population has been given a boost.

Operation Turtle Dove, a partnership project to save this bird on the brink of extinction, launched a competition to find names for their two logo birds. And thanks to Alice Stavert-Dobson, they are now happily christened as Heart and Hope.

Alice said: “I chose ‘Heart’ to represent love and ‘Hope’ because I hope Turtle Doves will still be here in the future.”

“I was really pleased to win the competition and I can’t wait to go and see the turtle doves this summer in Pensthorpe Nature Reserve.”

Turtle doves are currently embarking on a long journey back to the UK after spending the winter in Sub-Sarahan Africa. They typically arrive back in the UK around the middle of April.

Tim Nevard, Director of Conservation at the Pensthorpe Conservation Trust, said: “We look forward to welcoming Alice to Pensthorpe where she will be able to find out more about the project but also see and hear our Turtle Doves in the Wader Aviary.  Depending on when she visits she may even be lucky enough to hear some of the wild birds which traditionally have nested on the estate and benefit from our Conservation Grade farming methods and habitats we maintain.”


East Anglia is a stronghold for the turtle dove between April and August, but turtle doves are increasingly vulnerable.  Some of the problems facing them in their wintering grounds are illegal hunting and changes in land use, but work between the RSPB and Birdflife International is helping to reduce these impacts.


The threat to this iconic bird is real. Changes in modern day agricultural practices have been attributed to the loss of arable plants in farmland, which produce the early seed source turtle doves need on their return to the UK.


Alison Gardner from the RSPB said: “It is distressing to learn that we have lost nearly 60 per cent of our turtle doves in the five years to 2010.  If this decline continues we could be down to fewer than 1000 pairs by 2020, with complete UK extinction a real possibility.


Alison added, “The fantastic work of Operation Turtle Dove aims to make a real difference. Project partners are working with farmers to implement a bespoke seed rich mix which will be available to turtle doves on their return in Spring. Our new  turtle dove logo names reflect these birds so beautifully and we want to secure their future so children like Alice and her sister Thea will be able to enjoy their gentle ‘purring’ way into their adulthood and beyond.


Competition winner Alice won Turtle Dove themed chocolate heart made by the Project supporter Chocally. She went on to say: “It was really, really exciting to come home from my holiday because there was a pretty, sparkly surprise prize there for me. I  loved the pink Turtle Dove as that is my favourite colour. Me and my little sister thought it was yummy and ate it all up very quickly!”

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