“Lifeline” thrown to the UK’s Turtle Doves as another year of no hunting along their migration route is declared - RSPB

A temporary moratorium on shooting Turtle Doves along their migration route across Spain, France and Portugal during 2023, as recommended by the European Commission, will save nearly a million Turtle Doves.

One of the UK’s fastest-declining wild bird species, the Turtle Dove, has been thrown a “lifeline” by the European Commission, who have recommended that none will be hunted in south-west Europe in 2023 for the third year running.

This globally threatened migratory bird has suffered steep declines in the UK, and in neighbouring countries like 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.

All UK-breeding Turtle Doves spend the winter in West Africa, migrating via south-west Europe in both autumn and spring. When here in the UK, Turtle Doves breed in key areas of southern and eastern England, with the first few returning birds spotted in the UK last week.

Hunting of the birds has taken place for many years in France, Spain and Portugal, and prior to 2018, around one million Turtle Doves were being hunted 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.

As Dr Guy Anderson, Migrants Recovery Programme Manager for RSPB describes: “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”

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Posted On: 03/05/2023

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