Farmers urged to support ‘save the turtle dove’ campaign

Turtle dove, Streptopelia turtur

Turtle dove, Streptopelia turtur - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Farmers are being urged by conservation charity the RSPB to support a campaign to save the turtle dove.

Richard Symes, Halesworth farmer

Richard Symes, Halesworth farmer - Credit: Archant

The charity issued the plea to farmers in the East of England, still a relative stronghold of the bird, on the 100th anniversary of the extinction of North America’s passenger pigeon.

Just like the passenger pigeon, the turtle dove, which is currently halving in number every six years, is a migratory bird. The species nests in the UK and Europe and spends the winter in Africa, south of the Sahara. Turtle doves are now included on the Red List of conservation concern.

Sam Lee, RSPB turtle dove conservation adviser in the East, said: “The gentle purr of the turtle dove continues to be an evocative sound of summer here in the East, but has become increasingly rare following rapid and sustained population declines. One cause of the decline is thought to be lack of seed and grain as food during the breeding season, resulting in a much shorter breeding season with fewer nesting attempts.

“Across the region, we are working on developing urgent practical solutions. We provide advice to farmers and land owners on how they can provide food for turtle doves on their land. We are heartened by how many individuals and communities are passionate about halting the decline of this iconic species.”

Halesworth farmer and turtle dove champion Richard Symes said: “It is my responsibility to take care of the wildlife on my farm. Apart from wanting to see plenty of wildlife on the farm myself, the farming industry is under close public scrutiny. Taking care of the wildlife improves the industry’s reputation and opens up new market opportunities.

“I have undertaken several initiatives to improve the variety of wildlife I can support here by providing different habitats including ponds, woodlands and wildflowers. I used to see turtle doves regularly on my farm, but this year they have not returned. By creating targeted habitat for them to feed on, I hope we will see them back on the farm and be part of a network of farmers working together to support the species survival”

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Operation Turtle Dove - a partnership between the RSPB, Conservation Grade, Pensthorpe Conservation Trust and Natural England - was launched in May 2012 to stop the turtle dove following the same path as the passenger pigeon.

If you have land on which you would like to create much needed habitat for turtle doves, please contact the RSPB on 01603 660066.