Public poll to choose name for satellite tagged dove ends this Sunday

Rupert Masefield

Thursday 8 September 2016

Members of the public have the chance to cast their vote in a poll to choose a name for one of six turtle doves fitted with satellite tags in East Anglia this summer, but you will have to hurry, as the poll is only open for a few more days!

The six birds were fitted with their high-tech tracking devices by researchers from the RSPB Centre for Conservation Science as part of Operation Turtle Dove, an initiative that is working to identify the causes of turtle doves' decline and what can be done to address them and help turn the birds' fortunes around.

Thanks to the use of the state-of-the-art satellite tracking technology, RSPB scientists will be able follow the movements of the tagged turtle doves in an effort to learn more about the migratory behaviour of one of our most threatened birds. Turtle dove numbers have fallen by 93 per cent since 1994, a greater decline than any other UK breeding bird.

The lucky (or unlucky?!) bird, currently known only by the serial number of his satellite tag - 161004 - will be given one of three names shortlisted from a long list of more than 200 suggestions sent in by the public via Facebook and Twitter last weekend. They are (in no particular order):

1. Atlas

2. Myrtle

3. Gulliver

At the time of writing, Myrtle is the most popular choice with the public, with 60 per cent of the nearly 1,000 votes so far.

The turtle dove known as 161004 was fitted with his satellite tag in Feltwell in Norfolk in June, with the other turtle doves tagged at RSPB Frampton Marsh nature reserve in Lincolnshire, and in Lawford in Essex.

Rupert Masefield of the RSPB and Operation Turtle Dove said: "We're delighted so many people have shown an interest in helping to choose a name for one of these turtle doves. Whichever name wins, it will definitely be catchier than '161004', even if it might make some of our scientist wince to have to refer to him as Myrtle the turtle dove!

"And yes, we know Myrtle is 'a girl's name', but we don't think 161004 will mind!"


Cast your vote!

Which name do you think best suits the intrepid turtle dove '161004'? You can have you say by voting in the Twitter poll on @Natures_Voice, or commenting on the RSPBLoveNature Facebook post between now and Sunday.

The winning name will be announced this Sunday, 12 September, via the RSPB's @Natures_Voice Twitter account and RSPBLoveNatureFacebook. Votes can only be cast via @Natures_Voice on Twitter or RSPBLoveNature Facebook.


About turtle doves

· The turtle dove is a member of the pigeon family, but unlike its cousins the woodpigeon and the collared dove its numbers have been falling rapidly since the 1970s.

· They are our only migratory dove, spending less than half the year here in the UK, and flying more than 3,000 miles to Sub-Saharan Africa in the autumn.

· They are perhaps most popularly known for their appearance in the number two spot in the song 'The 12 Days of Christmas', but are actually only seen in this country in the summer.


A serious side to naming competition:

Behind the light-hearted fun of the competition to find a name for one lucky (or unlucky) turtle dove though, lies a more serious story of a bird facing the threat of extinction, and the role of satellite tracking science in helping us understand what we can do to save it.

You can follow the journeys of all six satellite tagged turtle doves, and learn more about satellite tracking science, at

Find out more about the work of Operation Turtle Dove, and what you can do to help, by visiting

Follow Operation Turtle Dove on Twitter: @SaveTurtleDoves

1. Operation Turtle Dove is a partnership conservation project between the RSPB, Conservation Grade, Natural England and Pensthorpe Conservation Trust and was launched in Spring 2012. The partnership aims to identify the primary causes of the turtle dove decline and develop and deploy urgent practical solutions.

2. The latest (2015) report on the findings of the annual UK Breeding Bird Survey (BBS), published last week, contained the news that turtle doves, whose numbers had been known to have fallen dramatically by 97 per cent since the 1970s, have been continuing in the same vein in more recent decades, declining by 93 per cent since 1994.

The Common Bird Census (CBC) / BBS trend is of severe declines in Turtle Dove abundance, beginning in the late 1970s and continuing to the present. Hunting during migration is a possible cause of the UK decline, to add to those related to agricultural intensification that have been postulated for other farmland seed-eaters.

This news follows the addition last year of the European turtle dove to the global Red List of threatened species for the first time, in recognition of the global extinction threat this once common bird now faces.

The Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) started in 1994, and involves thousands of volunteer birdwatchers carrying out standardised annual bird counts on randomly-located 1-km sites. A report is produced every year containing population changes and other results from the scheme. The BBS is the main scheme for monitoring the population changes of the UK's common breeding birds, providing an important indicator of the health of the countryside.

The BBS is run by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), and jointly funded by the BTO, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC, the statutory adviser to Government on UK and international nature conservation, on behalf of Natural Resources Wales, the Council for Nature Conservation and the Countryside, Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage) and the RSPB.

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ is widely recognized as the most comprehensive, objective global approach for evaluating the conservation status of plant and animal species. In 2015 the European turtle dove was 'uplisted' to Vulnerable. It has undergone rapid declines in much of its European range.

Last Updated: Monday 3 June 2019

Tagged with: Country: England Topic: Conservation Topic: Science Topic: Species conservation