Find out more about turtle doves

Turtle doves are the UK’s fastest declining bird species and they are threatened with global extinction. Read on to find out why they are threatened and what Operation Turtle Dove are doing to help save them.

What is a turtle dove?

Turtle doves are the UK’s fastest declining bird species and they are threatened with global extinction. Turtle doves are a vibrant, dainty species of dove (weighing in at around 140 grams) with a charismatic turrrturrr-ing call from which its name derives. Turtle doves are the only long distance migratory dove species in Europe, with their more common relatives such as the collared dove and wood pigeon staying in the UK year-round. The best chance you have to see the species is in East Anglia and South-east England, where the species has maintained its highest densities.

photo credit: Jonny Rankin

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Why are turtle doves in trouble?

Turtle doves are ecologically unique, being Europe’s only long distance migratory dove. They 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 include the loss of suitable habitat in both the breeding and non-breeding range, unsustainable levels of hunting on migration and disease. The Operation Turtle Dove team are working hard to understand these threats so that we can develop – and deliver – conservation solutions.

photo credit: Barend van Gemerden

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What are we doing to save turtle doves?

There are four main factors associated with the decline of turtle doves. These include the loss of suitable habitat in both the breeding and non-breeding range, unsustainable levels of hunting on migration and disease. 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.

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Tracking Titan to Africa and back again

In a science first the migration route of a UK-breeding turtle dove has been revealed by RSPB scientists – providing valuable data to help save turtle doves from UK extinction.

In summer 2014, scientists from the RSPB Centre for Conservation Science fitted a turtle dove – named Titan – with small, lightweight satellite tag in Suffolk before it embarked on its mammoth migration journey. Titan then completed an incredible 11,200 km to Mali in West Africa where he spent his winter and back to Suffolk again – to exactly where he originally was tagged.

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