Lancashire Times
Weekend Edition
11:05 PM 7th December 2020

Four Ways To Help Turtle Doves This Festive Season

For many people, the turtle dove is a bird associated with Christmas. It’s a firm feature in our Christmas carols (we challenge you not to sing “two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree”), decorations and literature but these beautiful and iconic doves are actually far away from our shores during the festive season, according to the UK’s largest nature conservation charity, the RSPB.

photo by Ben Andrew (
photo by Ben Andrew (
Turtle doves are the UK’s only migratory dove, spending winters in Sub-Saharan Africa and returning in spring to breed in England. Residents of counties like Kent, Sussex, Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk might be lucky enough to spot these small doves feeding or perched on telegraph wires on hot summer days, but, according to the RSPB, the national picture is sadly a story of serious decline.

The turtle dove population has plummeted by 95% since 1995, meaning that 25 years ago, you’d have been able to see twenty turtle doves for every one you see now.

Operation Turtle Dove; a partnership of the RSPB, Pensthorpe Conservation Trust, Natural England and Fair to Nature, has been working to identify and address the issues faced by turtle doves on UK soil, collaborating with networks of farmers, landowners and communities to help create better breeding and feeding habitat here in the UK, but turtle doves need your help too.

Here are four simple ways you can help the RSPB and partners to help these birds in 2021;

Add a date with a dove to your diary –

Turtle doves start to return to England in late April, often around St George’s Day. This year, the RSPB, rare Birds Breeding Panel, BTO and Natural England are asking keen eyed wildlife watchers to help survey the species to give a clearer picture of our national population. The survey will take place between mid-May and early August across Southern and Eastern England, helping conservationists to identify any previously unrecorded breeding sites. You can help by submitting your own turtle dove sightings via Birdtrack -

Create habitat in Turtle Dove Friendly zones –

Whether you have a back garden, community green space or commercial land operation, creating suitable habitat of any size can be invaluable in our turtle dove friendly zones. These are places where turtle doves are still breeding in small pockets and Operation Turtle Dove’s ambition is to create a landscape scale mosaic of good feeding, breeding and drinking habitat, so new generations can branch out across our countryside and fill it once again. If you live Southern or Eastern England and have a patch of land you can manage for wildlife, visit the Operation Turtle Dove website to find out more.

Give the gift of a donation –

Conservation work is underpinned by love, dedication and volunteer efforts, but the project needs financial support too. A small donation can go a long way in helping to create habitat or providing supplementary seed - and making a donation to help protect this species is a great, sustainable gift for any wildlife lover.

Talk to people about their plight –

Many people have no idea that farmland birds like the turtle dove are struggling. Finances will be stretched for a lot of people this winter so donating might not be an option for you, but everyone can play their part in helping conservation efforts by talking to others about the challenges the UK’s wild birds face. Show the turtle dove some love this season by encouraging others to read about their declines and take action.