Experts purring over Turtle Dove revival


Forestry Commission rangers and volunteers from the North Yorkshire Forest Bird Study Group are venturing into woods to check on a bird that seems to be putting down new roots. The Turtle Dove — usually found near farmland — has suffered such a tailspin decline that it has been put on the Red List of conservation concern. But in a move that has surprised the experts, the bird seems to be making a new home for itself in North Yorkshire woodlands such as Dalby Forest, near Pickering.

In response, the first ever survey of the species is being conducted in local Forestry Commission woods to gauge how many birds are nesting and what they are feeding on. Pickering-based Mick Carroll, from the North Yorkshire Forest Bird Study Group, said: “We are hearing the bird's lovely purring song more and more in the woods. And not just on the forest edge, but in the middle of big forests like Dalby where you would not expect to find them. Nightjars made a similar switch from heathland to forest clear-fell areas, so we know that birds can be very adaptable. It's all very intriguing and this survey will hopefully shed light on what is going on.”

Turtle Dove
Turtle Dove, private site, Suffolk (Photo: Ian Clarke)

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One theory is that Turtle Doves are feeding on seed from wheat growing along forest roads and rides; but no one knows for sure. Brian Hicks, Forestry Commission Ecologist, said: “Despite featuring in the Christmas carol, the Turtle Dove is a migratory species and spends winter in warmer climes. That means the survey has to be done now. Our public forests offer important habitats for wildlife thanks to sensitive management and on-going work done by our rangers and volunteer conservationists.”

Written by: Forestry Commission