Saving the turtle dove on World Migratory Bird Day

Harry Bellew

Friday 11 May 2018

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

The sight of a swift dancing round the rooftops during a warm spring evening or the first call of the cuckoo has become a quintessential sign that summer is just around the corner.

But as we celebrate World Migratory Bird Day this weekend it is the story of another iconic migratory bird that is facing a potential cliff edge moment between survival and extinction.
The purring of a turtle dove was once common throughout the English countryside. However, in recent years they have undergone a startling decline and now sit on the brink of extinction in this country.
But we’re working to change that.
What is a turtle dove?
Turtle doves are a vibrant, dainty species of dove weighing no more than a large pack of sweets (140g) with a gentle purr that is evocative sound of summer. But it is also one that has become increasingly rare following a raped and sustained population decline – around 97% in the last 20 years.
Why are they so special?
Turtle dove are the only long distant migratory dove species in Europe, not to be confused with their more common relatives such as the collared dove and wood pigeon who stay in the UK all year-around. Every year, they complete a mammoth migration journey from their wintering grounds in West Africa to the UK.
What’s the reason behind their decline?
There are four main factors that have played a part in the widespread decline of turtle doves. These include the loss of suitable habitat in both the breeding and non-breeding range, unsustainable levels of hunting on their migration and disease.
Is there hope for them?
Yes. With the support of RSPB, the Operation Turtle Dove team are working hard to understand the threats facing turtle doves and working with various partners, land owners and people to develop and deliver long-term conservation solutions to stop them disappearing from our shores completely.

Find out more about turtle doves

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Turtle dove Streptopelia turtur, standing on grass, Essex

G’s Fresh

One organisation that are doing their bit to help save turtle doves are G’s – a large company that grow fresh salads and vegetables. Stewart McIntyre is their Conservation and Biodiversity Manager for their Cambridgeshire farm growers and was happy to talk us through their turtle dove story:

“We know from previous surveys that turtle doves have nested on our land so we’re always looking for ways to help them. Over the past two years we have focused our efforts on improving habitats, with the help of the RSPB.

“Farmers big or small can have a positive impact. If we are serious about reversing the decline and saving the iconic turtle dove then we must act now and start putting actions in place.

“There are some fantastic people involved in turtle dove projects up and down the country with a wealth of knowledge. We must utilise this and capture the emotion this iconic bird brings to hear the romantic purring call for springs to come.”

G’s are in a unique position farming in Senegal and throughout Europe and then in various location within the UK. This gives us an opportunity to make the efforts needed in their wintering land, fly way and nesting sites.

Last Updated: Friday 11 May 2018

Help save the turtle dove

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

See how Operation Turtle Dove are helping to save this magnificant migratory bird

Tagged with: Country: UK Topic: Birds and wildlife Topic: Conservation Topic: Species conservation