Press Release

14 August 2022

After three years of restrictions due to Covid, Waveney Bird Club will be recommencing its winter programme of wildlife lectures at The Maltings Pavilion, Pirnhow Street, Ditchingham, and the first one couldn’t be more appropriate for the Waveney Valley area. Come and hear RSPB’s “Operation Turtle Dove” co-ordinator Eliza Leat at 7.30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 13th. She will tell us how we can help conserve the Turtle Dove to enable future generations to enjoy their gentle 'purring' call, which is an iconic sound of English summers.

The rich orange-brown upper-wings, blackish under-wings and the contrasting white terminal band to the tail distinguish it from the resident and more urban Collared Dove. Only a few decades ago this beautiful and much-loved species was widely distributed throughout Suffolk but, sadly, it is now disappearing fast with the 2021 National Turtle Dove Census revealing the UK population to be at an all-time low of only 2,100 pairs. Evidence suggests this decline is primarily a result of fewer breeding attempts that have been linked to reduced food availability during the nesting season, due to a decline in weed seeds as a result of chemical treatment to arable crops and grassland. Unsustainable shooting by hunters while the birds are on migration in Europe has also been a contributory factor.

Only a few decades ago the Turtle Dove was widely distributed throughout Suffolk but, sadly, this beautiful bird is disappearing fast with the 2021 National Turtle Dove census revealing the UK population to be at an all-time low of 2,100 pairs. Evidence suggests this historic decline is mostly a result of fewer breeding attempts that have been linked to reduced food availability and unsustainable hunting on their migration. A decline in weed seeds as a result of chemical treatment to arable crops and grassland are thought to be the principal reason for such a rapid decline.

The Turtle Dove is a summer visitor to the British Isles arriving from its Sub-Saharan wintering grounds in the last few days of April or in May. Its range is rapidly shrinking south-eastwards and East Anglia is now its stronghold. It prefers to nest in tall hedgerows in cultivated areas, in clumps of deciduous trees or sometimes in large rural gardens.

Turtle Doves were plentiful throughout the 1940s and remained abundant throughout the 1950s through to the 1970s. You wouldn’t have had to venture too far in the countryside to hear their magnificent call. Their abundance during this period is demonstrated by records of huge flocks that nowadays would be unbelievable. Flocks congregated on wires either just after arrival or before departing to winter in Africa. Flocks of 300 were noted at Framlingham in August 1958, 500 at Staverton Park on 31st May, 1968, and 360 at Levington in August 1975.

“Operation Turtle Dove” is having success working with landowners to provide the right habitats for this species to thrive. Patient work with hunters along the species' Western flyway through Europe and Africa (that the remaining UK population uses) has resulted in real progress towards ending the unsustainable hunting of this species.

Further information can be provided by Steve Piotrowski on 01986 893311 or 07702341017 or email: spiotrowski@btinternet.com


Steve Piotrowski
14th August 2022