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North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project

Turtle Doves by Richard BennettTurtle Doves by Richard Bennett

The beautiful Turtle Dove is our smallest European dove. This tiny power house of a bird flies 11,200 km to reach North Yorkshire from Mali in Africa each spring.

Unfortunately Turtle Doves are in big trouble; their population has declined in both the UK and Europe to such an extent there may now be fewer than 100 birds nesting in the whole of Yorkshire. Only 50 years ago it was classed as a fairly common bird.

Why are Turtle Doves in trouble?

Turtle Doves are no different from many other birds; they need food, shelter and water. However changes in land management practices means there are fewer places they can find the tiny native seeds they prefer to feed on. They like to nest in large scrubby hedges or young conifer plantations. Ponds are essential too; these provide a good supply of drinking water. Their decline may have been worsened by hunting in southern Europe as they migrate in spring.

The new North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project funded by Heritage Lottery, North York Moors National Park, Forestry Commission and Howardian Hills AONB in partnership with RSPB, Scarborough Borough Council, and North and East Yorkshire Ecological Data Centre, aims to help these birds. It will focus on where Turtle Doves have been recorded recently, principally around the forests of the southern fringe of the North York Moors National Park.

What are the project aims?

  1. Provide advice, training, support and small-scale capital work.
  2. Train keen farmers about Turtle Dove conservation so that they can spread the word amongst the farming community.
  3. Recruit volunteers to conduct surveys.
  4. Deliver talks and guided walks for local residents, schools and community groups.
  5. Create publicity and display material at key locations such as the Sutton Bank National Park Centre and the Dalby Forest Visitor Centre.

How can you help?

Turtle Doves by Richard BennettIf you have a farm or are in control of land, big or small and you have areas which could be managed to improve feeding and/or habitat we need to hear from you. Turtle Doves love feeding on native seed from autumn sown pollen and nectar mix, flower rich arable field margins or wild flower grasslands. Helping to increase these areas of habitat will also restore the vibrant colour to our local countryside.

We also would like to know about any sightings you have in or close to the National Park or Howardian Hills. If you see a Turtle Dove please email us at or phone Richard Baines, Turtle Dove Project Officer at the National Park office on 01439 772700.

For further information see our leaflet about Turtle Doves and the Project.

Date for your Dove Diary: upcoming talks and meetings

We have had lots of requests from organisations in Yorkshire for our talk on the North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project. We have been purring with pleasure by everyone’s enthusiasm for our project! So in order to get the message out further we decided to update you with dates of upcoming talks.

All talks are presented by Richard Baines unless otherwise noted and open to the public.

DateVenueStart Talk Title
Tuesday 21 April 2020Castle Howard Courtyard Cafê7.00pmTurtle Dove Surveys in 2020 - Howardian Hills area meeting. If you're interested in carrying out a survey please come along.
Saturday 25 April 2020 Sutton Bank National Park Centre From 1.00pm An Open Event launching our new interactive Turtle Dove interpretation and video. This event also includes two free birdwatching walks led by Richard Baines, Turtle Dove Project Officer.
Thursday 23 April 2020 Dalby Forest Visitor Centre 7.00pm Turtle Dove Surveys in 2020 - NYMNP/Forestry England area meeting. If you're interested in carrying out a survey please come along.

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