BBC Wildlife Magazine - - News -

The race to save tur­tle doves could ben­e­fit from the lat­est satel­lite-tag­ging re­search. The RSPB has tracked the mi­gra­tory route of Bri­tain’s fastest-de­clin­ing bird for the first time, pro­vid­ing data that could be vi­tal for con­ser­va­tion.

Re­searchers satel­lite-tagged a tur­tle dove called Ti­tan to map its 5,600km jour­ney from breed­ing sites in Suf­folk to win­ter­ing grounds in Mali.

“This is a bird that spends up to eight months of the year away from the UK,” said the RSPB’s Dr John Mal­lord. “We know a great deal about the tur­tle dove when it’s in the UK, but very lit­tle about the prob­lems the bird en­coun­ters dur­ing mi­gra­tion. How­ever, the driv­ers of their de­cline could be hap­pen­ing any­where en route.”

This was the only one of four tagged birds to suc­cess­fully make the jour­ney. “When Ti­tan left the UK last Septem­ber, the le­gal hunt­ing sea­son was still open in France and Spain. We know at least one mil­lion birds are legally hunted in those two coun­tries dur­ing the mi­gra­tion pe­riod. That’s a large pro­por­tion of the Western Euro­pean pop­u­la­tion, and we need to in­ves­ti­gate if it’s stop­ping their re­cov­ery.”

The re­search also high­lighted the im­por­tance of Morocco as a stag­ing post on the re­turn jour­ney: “Af­ter they’ve crossed the Sa­hara in spring, we now know they spend a couple of weeks here feed­ing up and re­fu­elling be­fore re-en­ter­ing Europe.”

The tur­tle dove pop­u­la­tion has plum­meted 96 per cent since 1970, and un­der­stand­ing the rel­a­tive im­por­tance of key points on mi­gra­tion will help ex­perts to pro­tect them. But Mal­lord said time is not on their side: “At the cur­rent rate of de­cline, the bird could be ex­tinct in the UK within three decades.”

Matt Swaine

An RSPB guide to tur­tle doves:


The beaver should be recog­nised as a na­tive species, ac­cord­ing to a coali­tion of wildlife groups.

The call fol­lows the suc­cess of the of­fi­cial five-year beaver trial in Knap­dale and the flour­ish­ing pop­u­la­tion that’s grown from ac­ci­den­tal re­leases on the Tay River.

Con­ser­va­tion­ists are also ask­ing for more rein­tro­duc­tions. The Scot­tish Wildlife Trust says that suit­able beaver habi­tat can be found on most ma­jor river sys­tems in Scot­land, and that it would be look­ing to rein­tro­duce beavers to its own wildlife re­serves wher­ever pos­si­ble.

The Scot­tish Beaver Trial says that the ma­jor­ity of the pub­lic sup­port bring­ing beavers back, and that nearly three mil­lion peo­ple en­gaged with the project in Knap­dale.

Ro­dent in res­i­dence: should beavers now be classed as na­tive again?

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