No hunting of turtle doves in south-west Europe for third successive year


A temporary moratorium on shooting European Turtle Doves along their migration route across Spain, France and Portugal during 2023 has been agreed.

The moratorium, as recommended by the European Commission, could save nearly a million of the threatened birds, according to the RSPB. The agreement comes as part of international efforts to allow the population of turtle doves across Western Europe to recover – this will be the third consecutive year when no hunting is permitted in these countries, with previous bans in 2021 and 2022.

The moratorium could save nearly a million European Turtle Doves (John Wall).

European Turtle Dove has suffered steep declines in the UK and in neighbouring countries such as Belgium and The Netherlands since the 1970s, primarily due to changes to farming practices but with the situation made worse by unsustainable hunting in south-west Europe.

Hunting of the birds has taken place for many years in France, Spain and Portugal, and prior to 2018, around 1 million Turtle Doves were being killed each autumn across these three countries alone. Meanwhile, agricultural changes here at home have caused a loss of suitable habitat for the birds that make it to the UK to raise the next generation, leaving just 2,100 breeding territories remaining in the UK according to a 2021 study.

Dr Guy Anderson, Migrants Recovery Programme Manager for RSPB, said: "By introducing this hunting moratorium for the third year running in south-west Europe, turtle doves that migrate across this region and breed the whole way across western Europe – including the UK – have been thrown a vital lifeline at a time where their declines are a real cause for concern for conservation organisations across the continent.

"While hunting has exacerbated the problems caused for these birds by agricultural changes, the UK has an important role to play in ensuring that plenty of good-quality habitat is available for them on their return. This moratorium brings an ideal window of opportunity to really ramp up our efforts. To save these beloved birds, we have to take a two-pronged approach to tackle both problems at the same time."