Late spring every year we await the return of 'our' turtle doves. This year (2015) they were seen outside the warehouse May 6th, slightly earlier than usual. Last year we saw three breeding pairs. To date this year, only one pair has appeared. We wait with baited breath for more to arrive.
They spend lots of time underneath the feeders eating sunflower hearts from the ground.
The turtle dove is a dainty dove, smaller and darker than the collared dove and slightly larger than a blackbird. Its upper parts are distinctively mottled with chestnut and black and its black tail has a white edge.
The gentle purr of the turtle dove is an evocative sound of summer, 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 breeder season with fewer nesting attempts. The species is now included on the Red List of conservation concern.
Turtle doves are in trouble; their population is currently halving in number every six years. They have suffered a 95% UK population decline since 1970 and a 74% decline across Europe since 1980. A bird that was once common across much of England is now retreating year after year into an ever shrinking patch of East Anglia and the South East of England.
At this current rate of change, of we don’t help this species, scientists calculate that complete UK extinction as a breeding species will be a real possibility