Where and when to see Turtle Doves

When to see Turtle Doves
Turtle Doves visit England for the breeding season, arriving in late April and May and leaving again between July and September.

Where to see Turtle Doves

Turtle Doves can be tricky to spot, and it is impossible to guarantee that you’ll see them at any particular location. Members of the Operation Turtle Dove team often struggle to find them even when they know that they are present! Birds are normally more active early in the morning and therefore may be more visible then. Places that have good quality habitat may support Turtle Doves – flower-rich areas with bare ground for feeding, dense scrub and hedgerows for nesting and accessible water sources for drinking and bathing.

Even if you don’t hear or see a Turtle Dove in these habitats, you are bound to come across a variety of interesting wildlife using the same habitats that Turtle Doves love. Birds like Nightingales and Bullfinches may use the same hedges and scrub, as well as pollinating insects and other bird species that frequent flower-rich vegetation.

Remember that Turtle Doves often feed on farmed land, so can be found anywhere in eastern and south-east England where there is suitable habitat. However, the nature reserves listed below are in areas that are known to support Turtle Doves. It is important to remember that these birds are very sensitive to disturbance so please minimise your impact when out and about and enjoy them from afar.

Eastern England

Black Bourn Valley (Suffolk Wildlife Trust), Suffolk

RSPB Boyton & Hollesley Marshes, Suffolk

Bure Marshes (Woodbastwick, the Broads), Norfolk

Fingringhoe Wick (Essex Wildlife Trust), Essex

RSPB Fowlmere, Cambridgeshire

RSPB Minsmere, Suffolk

RSPB North Warren, Suffolk

RSPB Snettisham, Norfolk

RSPB Titchwell Marsh, Norfolk

Wrabness (Essex Wildlife Trust), Essex

You can see Turtle Doves at Pensthorpe in Norfolk all year round, as they have a captive breeding flock.

Northern England

Sutton Bank, North Yorkshire

Dalby Forest, North Yorkshire

South East England

Kingley Vale National Nature Reserve, near Chichester, West Sussex

Oare Marshes (Kent Wildlife Trust), Kent

RSPB Motney Hill, Kent

Stodmarsh National Nature Reserve, near Canterbury, Kent

Sandwich: We are working with landowners at a privately owned site near Sandwich, who occasionally offer open events so that the public can view the turtle doves here. To help us protect this important feeding site, which is highly sensitive to disturbance, please email us to register your interest in visiting and we will be in touch.

Woods Mill (Sussex Wildlife Trust), West Sussex

South West England

Martin Down National Nature Reserve, Wiltshire