Turtle dove in flight

Ensuring safe passage for Turtle Doves on migration

Turtle Doves spend two thirds of their time outside the UK. We’re working with partners along the Turtle Dove’s migratory route and over the last few years there has been some fantastic progress in tackling the issue of unsustainable hunting on the Turtle Dove’s southward autumn migration in France, Spain and Portugal.

In autumn, all UK-breeding Turtle Doves migrate south through France, Spain and Portugal before crossing into North Africa where they spend the winter months in sub-Saharan Africa. Up until recently, Turtle Doves were legally hunted in France, Spain and Portugal, with numbers shot estimated at around one million birds per year.

As a result of the International Action Plan for Turtle Dove, a consortium of organisations came together to tackle this issue which would have hindered any population recovery of the species. In 2021, 2022 and 2023, Turtle Dove hunting was paused in these three countries, likely saving the lives of one million birds every year. Work is ongoing to ensure that any future Turtle Dove hunting in these countries is carried out at sustainable levels.

An absence of hunting has given UK-breeding Turtle Doves a lifeline and Operation Turtle Dove is working hard to make the most of this important breathing space – by working with land managers so that when Turtle Doves return each spring they have the feeding, nesting and drinking resources that are crucial for their population recovery.

Photo: Turtle Dove in flight. Credit: Paul Tomlinson.