Turtle dove (Streptopelia turtur)

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Turtle dove fact file

Turtle dove description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderColumbiformes
FamilyColumbidae
GenusStreptopelia (1)

The small, delicate turtle dove (Streptopelia turtur) is slightly larger than a blackbird. It has dark black and chestnut upper parts with a white belly and pink breast. The flight is characterised by flickering wing beats interspersed by short glides. The scientific name turtur comes from the soft 'turr turr' call (2).

French
Tourterelle des bois.
Size
Length: 26-28 cm (2)
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Turtle dove biology

Adult turtle doves feed on the ground, mainly on cereal and wildflower seeds and the occasional insect. During the first five days of life the young are fed on 'crop-milk' which the parents regurgitate. They then eat small seeds and insects.

Turtle doves return from their wintering grounds around late April and immediately start nesting. The nests are usually made in hedges or scrub, two broods may be produced in the season each consisting of two eggs. Both parents share the incubation and feeding duties (2).

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Turtle dove range

The turtle dove is a widespread summer migrant throughout Europe, common in the central and southern European lowlands (2). The UK is the northern edge of its range, where it is found mainly in the south and east. This species spends the winter in sub-Saharan Africa (2).

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
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Turtle dove habitat

Mainly found in lowland agricultural land with copses, large hedgerows, and orchards near to cereal or weedy fields. Dry sunny habitats are preferred by the turtle dove but it can also be found on heathland, and in gardens and parks (2).

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Turtle dove status

The turtle dove is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1). It is listed on the Birds of Conservation Concern Red List and Annex II of the EC Birds Directive. Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern

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Turtle dove threats

The UK population of turtle doves fell by 60 percent between 1966-72 and 1988-91. At the same time many other farmland bird species also suffered massive declines. The reasons for these declines are thought to be the widespread changes in agricultural practices that have occurred since the Second World War. These changes include the increased use of herbicides and pesticides, reducing food availability, and the removal of hedgerows and scrub which has removed nesting sites. Further threats to this species occur outside the UK on the long migration to Africa and after arrival. It is shot in huge numbers during migration through France, Spain and Morocco and in the wintering grounds mainly in Senegal (3).

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Turtle dove conservation

Little conservation action has been targeted at the turtle dove, as it was not recognised as a species for conservation concern until recently (3). Agri-environment schemes, such as the Countryside Stewardship Scheme, should benefit this species by encouraging the retention of winter stubble fields. The turtle dove is a priority species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP); the plan aims to halt the decline by 2003 and promote a sustained recovery (3).

There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
The UK Biodiversity Action Plan for this species is available at UK BAP.
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Find out more

For more information on the turtle dove and other bird species:

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Authentication

Information authenticated by the RSPB:
http://www.rspb.org.uk/

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Glossary

Agri-environment schemes
These schemes allow the government to compensate farmers for using methods that benefit the environment. The two main initiatives in the UK are the Countryside Stewardship Scheme and Environmentally Sensitive Areas. Since October 2000 these have formed part of the England Rural Development Programme (EDRP), administered by DEFRA, the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs. For more on these initiatives see: http://www.defra.gov.uk/erdp/erdphome.htm
Incubation
The act of incubating eggs, that is, keeping them warm so that development is possible.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2011)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. RSPB (November 2001)
    http://www.rspb.org.uk
  3. UK Biodiversity (November 2001)
    http://www.ukbap.org.uk/
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Image credit

Turtle dove pair  
Turtle dove pair

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