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Three yellowhammers, two turtle doves and a song thrush in a blackthorn

Turtle Doves by Credit Richard BennetTurtle Doves by Credit Richard Bennet

The North Yorkshire turtle dove project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, is seeking land owners large and small who may be able to give the gift of improved habitat to native bird species in 2019.

Turtle doves, those symbols of love and friendship that we sing about each Christmas, are now critically endangered in the UK. Due in part to modern farming practices, the dense patches of scrub in which they nest and the wildflowers that provide them with seed have been lost. The North York Moors National Park is fortunate to be one of the few remaining strongholds for the species, and the turtle dove project is seeking individuals and community groups who can help restore some of the birds’ natural habitat.

“This autumn, nine different landowners and tenants have established 17 new turtle dove wildflower plots,” said Richard Baines, Turtle Dove Project Officer. “These include the Sawdon Community Nature Reserve Group, which has also planted a mixture of hawthorn, blackthorn and hazel to create a thicket of scrub, perfect to protect the delicate nests of turtle doves in future years.”

“It’s a great start, but we need many more reserves if we are going to have a chance of making a difference.”

The newly planted reserves don’t just benefit turtle doves, but are valuable for a whole range of declining bird species. Song thrushes too prefer large hedges or dense scrub for their nests, and grey partridge and yellowhammers are reliant on open land rich in small insects.

“In Sawdon they’ve planted a special mix of delicate flowers, chosen to provide native wild flower seed for these endangered birds,” continued Richard. “The beautiful pale red of common fumitory and the vibrant yellow of bird’s-foot trefoil, once named locally as ‘bacon and eggs’, will be emerging from the ground in the spring, just in time for the returning turtle doves.”

“Although in Britain we sing about turtle doves at Christmas, they’re actually more than 11,000km away in Mali, Africa; but we look forward to welcoming them back in late April.”

The North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project is a partnership project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, North York Moors National Park Authority, Forestry Commission and Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in partnership with RSPB, Scarborough Borough Council, and North and East Yorkshire Ecological Data Centre. For more information on how you and your community could help please email


Media contact

Nina Beadle, Communications Officer, North York Moors National Park Authority
01439 772700

The North York Moors National Park

The North York Moors is a beautiful landscape of stunning moorland, ancient woodland and historic sites. Created on 28 November 1952 it became Britain’s sixth national park. Covering an area of 554 square miles (1,436 square kilometres) the National Park has 26 miles of coastline, two national nature reserves, 840 Scheduled Monuments and over 3,000 listed buildings, attracting an estimated 7.9 million visitors a year.

The National Park has two visitor centres, The Moors National Park Centre, Danby and Sutton Bank National Park Centre, providing opportunities for cycling, walking, eating, picnicking, shopping, crafts and wildlife-watching. The centre in Danby also houses the Inspired by… gallery, which features regularly changing exhibitions by artists who draw their inspiration from the North York Moors.

The North York Moors National Park Authority works with a wide variety of people to care for this beautiful corner of Yorkshire, providing apprenticeships and volunteering opportunities with nearly 14% of staff being apprentices from local families.

To view other press releases and for further information about the North York Moors National Park, visit