Ami Walker – Conservation Land Management Adviser
The southern edge of the North York Moors is extremely lucky to be visited by Turtle doves (Streptopelia turtur), one of England’s most threatened farmland birds.
Turtle doves have seen an 81% decline between 1995 and 2010. The majority of these summer visitors are found in south east England arriving from mid-April to breed and then leaving from mid-August to late September to head south, beyond the Sahara, for winter.
Like a lot of birds they’ve got their common name because of the noise they make (turr turr). The Turtle dove is an obligate granivore (it only eats seeds), with the seeds of plants associated with arable fields such as fumitory, chickweed, common mouse ear and annual knotgrass, forming the mainstay of their diet.
One of the particular qualities of the North York Moors is the variety of different habitats that make up the landscape. Turtle doves are associated with arable/mixed farmland where tall, wooded cover is available for nesting. The birds prefer to nest in hedgerows or areas of scrub over 4 metres tall especially those characterised by thorny shrubs, such as hawthorn. So cultivated margins around arable fields adjacent to bushy hedges provide ideal habitat.
We’re really keen to build up a picture of the birds in the National Park and to work with land managers to provide more favourable habitat for them so we can maintain and encourage our local population. So if you see or hear a Turtle dove in the North York Moors or if you want to talk through habitat possibilities please get in touch with me.