Turtle Dove Migration

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Turtle Dove Migration

On March 25, 2016, Posted by , in Uncategorized, With No Comments

The Turtle Dove is Britain’s only migratory dove, arriving on the breeding grounds in late April/early May, departing back to the non-breeding areas in arid sub-Saharan West Africa in late August/early September. With two-thirds of its annual cycle spent away from the breeding areas, it is important that we also understand threats faced by the birds in Europe and Africa.

We have little knowledge of Turtle Dove migration routes, and virtually no data on population connectivity and wintering ecology. Since declines may be associated with changes in land-use and habitat quality, we will use satellite tracking to help us to identify the migratory routes used by Turtle Doves, as well as critical sites and important habitats in their non-breeding range. This will inform targeted site-based research and conservation work to examine and begin to redress the loss and modification of key habitats.

Additionally we need to quantify the scale and impact of legal and illegal hunting, both in Europe and elsewhere, and provide information that will inform a review and update of the European Commission Management Plan for European Turtle Dove.

We will carry out this work by establishing collaborations with partners across the flyway, representing a unique and truly coordinated approach to address Turtle Dove conservation.

RSPB Turtle Dove migration research (Lead: Dr Danaë Sheehan, RSPB Senior Conservation Scientist)

Since Turtle Doves that breed in the UK spend only a third of their time here, learning more about the needs of birds on migration and in Africa directly helps their conservation in the UK. To save the Turtle Dove from extinction in the UK, we must know more about the issues that affect them while on migration.

RSPB scientists are undertaking research using small satellite tags that transmit information about the Turtle Doves journey via orbiting satellites. Satellite tags have been used successfully for a number of years on a wide range of species, including by the RSPB on ospreys, white-tailed eagles, red kites, northern bald ibises and sociable lapwings. The tags being trialled on Turtle Doves weigh just 5 grams – the same as a 20 pence piece – which is around 3 per cent of the Turtle Dove’s body weight.

Tracking Turtle Doves will tell us how far the doves travel to feed, how and where they migrate and where our birds spend the winter. This information, supported by more RSPB research in the UK and West Africa, is crucial to developing a plan to help turtle doves in all parts of their range. If the tags affected the birds’ behaviour, it would make the research invalid, so we are taking great care in the design and fitting of these devices to ensure we stay within strict guidelines.

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