The 12 days of (a wildlife) Christmas – 2 turtle doves

Dawn Monrose

For day 2 of our 12 days of (a wildlife) Christmas we’re talking about turtle doves – beautiful birds that are seeing serious declines.

Breeding Bird Survey data shows a 96% decline in turtle doves across England since 1970; the UK breeding population is halving approximately every 6 years. This is largely due to reduced breeding success as a result of agricultural intensification which has resulted in a reduction in the food turtle doves rely upon - seeds. Wildlife-friendly farming is critical in helping create nature recovery networks – linking of habitat across whole landscapes to ensure our wildlife can thrive.

National efforts to help curb the decline comes in the form of Operation Turtle Dove – a partnership project between RSPB, Conservation Grade, Pensthorpe Conservation Trust, and Natural England. East Anglia is thought to be a stronghold for turtle doves, and Suffolk Ornithologist Group (SOG) has formed a steering group to ensure local efforts are best directed to help turtle doves recover.

Turtle doves are migratory birds, spending the breeding season in the UK, before heading to Africa for the winter. Our Black Bourne Valley reserve is a good place for dove spotting and whilst we wouldn’t initially think of Ipswich as being prime location for finding turtle doves, SBIS does show a record in Purdis Heath from 2011 – so keep your eyes and ears peeled next year!