Capture and tagging of a dove, satellite tagging of Turtle doves, Essex

Tracking turtle doves

In 2012 we began a satellite tracking project to help us learn more about the movements of Turtle doves as they travel from their UK breeding grounds to Africa.

Our study

The aim of this study is to gather information on the migratory movements of turtle doves, and to identify important areas used en route and in Africa.

In 2014, one of our tagged birds, named Titan, became the first UK-breeding turtle dove to be tracked over the whole of its migratory journey, from Suffolk to West Africa and back again. We were also able to follow him for a second autumn / winter as he returned to Africa.

We have discovered a lot from following Titan, including his exact migration route, important stopover sites and multiple wintering locations, and even how these vary between years in response to environmental conditions, but we realise there is only a limited amount you can learn from just one bird. So, in 2016 we sought, and were given, permission to satellite tag more UK breeding turtle doves in the UK.

The satellite tracking map shows you the live location of our birds.

Keep up to date with our Turtle dove news by following our blogs and on twitter @RSPBScience #titan #turtledove

Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur, newly fledged juvenile perched on branch, Titchwell RSPB Nature Reserve

Meet the birds

Bird 161004 has been given a name - Myrtle. Thank you to Claire Wilson, Anne Tomma, Howard Bayley, Jez Elkin, Hannah Gumbrell, Katy Spedding, Halina Morton, Susanna Allen, Ella Wooley, Julie Kimber and photo_cj for suggesting this name.

We have only received two transmissions from Myrtle since 14 September 2016, telling us that he is still close to where he was caught in Cambridgeshire, UK. We believe that Myrtle may have perished. We do not know what may have caused his death, but some of the risks faced by turtle doves on their breeding grounds include predation and the stresses of preparing for migration. Thanks to Sir Charles Chadwyck-Healey for naming bird 161002, Angela.

Another one of our satellite tracked birds is called Titan. We have not heard from Titan since 22 April 2016, when he was still in Mali c.100km west of the capital Bamako. 

We believe that Titan’s satellite tag battery may have reached the end of its lifespan. However, there is also a possibility that Titan may have perished. 

Take a look at Titan’s migration journey and find out what we have learnt from him.

Myrtle, Satellite tag number 161004, tagged in Feltwell on 22 June 2016

Satellite tracking map


  • 02 Jun 2016
  • 29 Nov 2016
  • 09 Apr 2017
  • 16 Jun 2016
  • 10 Sep 2016
  • 18 Sep 2016
  • 06 Jun 2016
  • 17 Sep 2016
  • 27 Sep 2016
  • 09 Aug 2016
  • 16 Feb 2017
  • 19 Jun 2017
  • 22 Jun 2016
  • 12 Sep 2016
  • 15 Jun 2016
  • 16 Feb 2017
  • 08 May 2017


Titan 2015
  • 20 Sep 2015
  • 15 Oct 2015
  • 22 Apr 2016


  • 19 Sep 2014
  • 10 May 2015
  • 22 Jun 2015

Working in partnership

This project wouldn't be possible without the generous support of all the volunteers and farmers and the following organisations: Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Conservation Grade and Pensthorpe Conservation Trust - turtle doves.

Satellite-tagging of turtle doves is also being done in France and Spain. We donated five tags to the French team at ONCFS.

Turtle Dove close up of adults face, Titchwell RSPB Nature Reserve

Frequently asked questions

Capture and tagging of a dove, satellite tagging of Turtle doves, Essex

Find the answers to your questions about the satellite tracking of turtle doves here.

Operation turtle dove

Tracking Titan is just one part of our work towards saving turtle doves.

Along with our partners in Operation Turtle Dove - Conservation Grade, Pensthorpe Conservation Trust and Natural England - we're committed to turning around turtle dove declines.

Together we are developing and facilitating the delivery of conservation actions for turtle doves to significantly improve the chances of species recovery. 

Operation Turtle Dove comprises of three main parts: 

1) Breeding grounds research – understanding drivers of decline and trialling conservation solutions 

In 2014, the RSPB Centre for Conservation Science completed five years of research to investigate a link between the availability of food and the health and breeding success of the turtle doves. The results of this research are being translated into conservation advice which is being delivered to farmers and other land managers.

2) Establishing feeding and nesting habitat over the core breeding range

Our turtle dove advisers deliver advice to farmers and landowners on providing turtle dove friendly habitat. 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 2014 we began a project with CEMEX to secure more suitable foraging and nesting habitat for turtle doves in the breeding season. 

3) Migration route and wintering grounds research

In February 2014, the RSPB Centre for Conservation Science began turtle dove research on their wintering grounds in Senegal. This research forms the start of a project to understand how to protect turtle doves when they are in Africa.

How you can help

Turtle dove Streptopelia turtur, adult perched in tree top, Fowlmere RSPB reserve,

Turtle doves have declined by 93 per cent between 1994 - 2014 meaning there are just nine for every 100 there were 40 years ago! We are facing the very real possibility of this beautiful bird becoming extinct as breeding bird in England. Your donation will help fund research looking into threats facing these iconic birds, as well as developing solutions that will save them.