Flyway scale conservation – from Suffolk to Senegal

Turtle doves spend just a third of the year on their breeding grounds in Europe and spend the winter on their non-breeding grounds in sub-Saharan West Africa.

There are four main factors associated with the decline of turtle doves. These are the loss of suitable habitat in both the breeding and non-breeding range, unsustainable levels of hunting on migration and disease. Since turtle doves face threats on their breeding grounds, on migration through Europe and on their African wintering grounds it is essential that we work alongside conservation partners in Europe and Africa to help this bird all along the turtle dove flyway. RSPB are in a good position to do this as part of the BirdLife International network.

The long term aim of Operation Turtle Dove is to deliver conservation action for turtle doves that address each of these factors and we are currently at different stages of developing and testing solutions for each of them.

Research on the breeding grounds

Because research so far has highlighted that reduced productivity associated with food shortages on their breeding grounds is the main cause of population decline in the UK, scientists from the RSPBs Centre for Conservation Science have been focussing effort on determining whether the provision of seed plots on farmland could increase the breeding success of turtle doves.

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Establishing turtle dove habitat

A vital aspect of Operation Turtle Dove is the establishment of feeding and nesting habitat over the core breeding range.

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Ensuring safe passage for turtle doves on migration

Turtle doves spend two thirds of their time outside the UK. Since turtle doves also face threats on migration through Europe and on their African wintering grounds it’s essential that we also work alongside conservation partners in Europe and Africa to help this bird all along the turtle dove flyway. RSPB are in a good position to do this as part of the BirdLife International network.

photo credit: Tara Proud

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Research on the turtle dove migratory route & wintering grounds

Before we can begin to address issues affecting turtle dove outside the UK, we must first establish which other countries turtle doves that breed in the UK use, and then carry out ecological research to better understand what they need when they are migrating and on their wintering grounds.

photo credit: Chris Orsman

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