… Two Turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.
But have you ever seen a Turtle dove? I have not. The dainty dove that purrs and turrs. Our only dove that migrates for the winter (to Africa).
So why are they disappearing? Well, here in England and Wales, the dove’s most northerly range, we keep changing farming methods, crops, and timings. To the extent that theres not enough food for them to raise their young. And to top that, those that do survive starvation face being shot en-masse as they fly south, over Europe, to Africa.
This purring tur-turring dove is in real dire straits. Numbers are declining so rapidly that they are facing likely extinction here in the UK, and very soon.
So what are we doing about it? Operation Turtle Dove is a partnership of wildlife organisations working hard to save this species. Firstly, we are instigating trial farming plots, to create enough seed for the birds to breed and raise chicks. Cereal seeds, and wildflower seeds is what they like most. And, we are funding a PhD studentship to study disease in Turtle doves. We are talking to governments. British and European. It is vital that we make it illegal to shoot/kill a Turtle dove in Europe. Some selfish evil bad guys will still shoot them. But we hope that the majority of shooters will not. And at least with the law behind us, we can pursue and prosecute those that do.
And then let us not forget that there is the African part of their journey too. We are not really sure of their migration route just yet. It could be that their habitats, and feeding areas en-route, are also being lost. So we need to satellite tag some birds, to plot and better understand their route. These radio tags cost an absolute fortune. And of course, with so many birds perishing, from starvation, disease and bullets, these very expensive tags risk not making it to Africa at all. Once we know the migration route of the Turtle dove, we will build a collaborative partnership across the routes, with other people and organisations who care. Teamwork across two continents, to address the Turtle dove problems together.
We may even have to resort to a breeding/reintroduction project, to help boost the numbers, and so the recovery of the populations. But not until weve solved some of the above problems, else well just be breeding and releasing birds to go out there and starve or be murdered!
So if youd like to help save a Turtle dove or two for Christmas, click here:
(it’s not just about money, there is a Turtle dove hotline – they are so rare that we need to know of any sightings, and you can support farmers who are Turtle dove friendly)..