Operation Turtle Dove

Turtle doves are the fastest-declining bird in the UK. Operation Turtle Dove aims to reverse that by building on research throughout their migratory route and establishing feeding habitats throughout their core breeding range by working with farmers and landowners.

 Turtle dove Streptopelia turtur, standing on grass, Essex, England


Turtle doves have declined by 93 per cent since the 1970s. 
They are ecologically unique in the UK as our only migratory dove species and face a range of threats across their flyway including habitat loss on wintering and breeding grounds, hunting and disease. 
Current research shows the main factor driving the decline is a reduction of nesting attempts during their breeding season. This has been linked to a decline of fitness as a result of loss of suitable habitat and availability of their natural food sources. 
Suffolk and Essex support almost 30 per cent of the UK breeding turtle dove population (data provided by BTO Bird Atlas 2007-11), therefore conservation actions in these areas are vital in sustaining the UK turtle dove population.


  • To increase the amount of feeding habitat available to turtle doves within their core breeding range in the UK.
  • To provide early sources of food to enable turtle doves to recover from their migration when they return to breeding grounds in late April-May.
  • To work with farmers and landowners to establish and manage turtle dove habitat within current and new agri-environment schemes.
  • To deliver free farm advisory visits to farmers within core turtle dove breeding range.
  • To raise awareness of the plight of turtle doves.
  • To encourage people to submit their sightings.


  • 22 free farm advisory visits delivered throughout Essex and Suffolk.
  • 14 non-farm site visits delivered.
  • Delivery of community outreach in Essex and Suffolk.

Planned Work

In November we delivered a join event with the Essex Wildlife Trust to promote wildlife-friendly farming under the new CAP reform schemes.


Rebecca Jordan at Joseph Smith Farm Partnership has included turtle dove habitat as part of her agri-environment scheme as well as an acre of voluntary habitat.
David Watson at Mill Hill Farm camping and caravan site has created voluntary targeted turtle dove habitat and recorded at least two pairs on site in 2014. 
Darren Eyres at Veolia Pitsea landfill site planted 3 hectares of bespoke turtle dove seed mix.


Coast on a stormy day

Samantha Lee

Conservation Advisor, RSPB


Further reading

Tagged with: Country: England Habitat: Farmland Species: Turtle dove Project status: Ongoing Project types: Advocacy Project types: Species protection