With their food source and habitat threatened, turtle doves are in decline. But as part of Operation Turtle Dove, we’re helping to turn the tide.
Turtle doves in decline
With their distinctive colouring and unique ‘turr-turr’ call, spotting a turtle dove is a breeze. But only if they’re around to be spotted. Sadly, there’s been a dramatic drop in these summertime visitors to the UK in recent years. They’re now on the International Union for Conversation of Nature’s red list of threatened species.
What’s the threat?
Along with other farmland birds, changes in farming practices have had a big impact on turtle doves. They eat seeds from wild plants that grow alongside our crops, but those plants are becoming increasingly scarce. Plus, they like to nest in overgrown hedgerows and hawthorn thickets near farmland ponds, which are becoming less common. And even if they do manage to feed and breed, they face hunting along their migratory route to West Africa too.
How we’re helping
In 2012, in partnership with the RSPB, Natural England and Conservation Grade, we founded Operation Turtle Dove to reverse the fortunes of this enigmatic and culturally significant bird. The goal is to better understand the turtle dove’s ideal habitat and food sources, and then work to improve the local area to match. Our role is to carry out seed preference tests to discover what mixture works best.
The turtle dove will soon become extinct if we take no action. Its future is in our hands, but there’s lots you can do to help. Check out the Operation Turtle Dove website, where you can report sightings, make a donation, and learn how to create a turtle dove habitat, providing them with places to feed, nest and drink.