Turtle dove advisory sheet - RSPB

rspb.org.uk

Turtle dove advisory sheet - RSPB

Ernie Janes (rspb-images.com)

FARMING FOR BIRDS IN WALES

Turtle dove

The turtle dove is much more rufous (reddy-brown) on the back and wings than other doves, and has a distinctive black tail with a white edge seen in flight.

In Wales, the turtle dove is now mainly

confined to a small part of Gwent where

just five or six pairs remain. It used to be

widespread throughout Wales as recently

as the 1970s. Throughout the UK, the

population has fallen by 70% since 1970*,

probably because fewer seed sources are

available to them on farmland. The turtle

dove is a summer visitor to the UK,

arriving in late April and leaving at the

end of August. In Wales, the turtle dove

is found in young conifer plantations and

on arable and mixed farmland with

suitable nesting habitat.

*Data source: British Trust for Ornithology

WHAT DO TURTLE DOVES NEED?

A continuous supply of weed

and crop seed from late April

until the end of August

Both adult and chick turtle doves are

dependent on the availability of seeds,

especially those of fumitory, knotgrass,

chickweed, oilseed rape and cereal grains.

They feed on the ground in weedy areas

(especially where the vegetation is short and

sparse), on spilt grain and in stubble after

harvest. Seed food availability is probably the

main factor limiting breeding success.

Tall mature hedgerows, areas of

scrub, young conifer plantation or

woodland edges with a thick shrub

layer for nesting

The remaining Welsh population nests in

young conifer plantations, but they will

also nest in hedgerows or scrub over four

metres tall. They prefer thorny species

such as hawthorn, and nests are often

associated with climbers such as

traveller’s-joy (wild clematis),

honeysuckle or bramble.

GUIDELINES OVERLEAF


HOW CAN I ENCOURAGE TURTLE DOVES?

LEAVE AN UNCROPPED FALLOW

FIELD MARGIN

Choose field margins with a variety of broadleaved

arable plants that are not highly

competitive with the crop. Cultivate the margin

each year, but leave it undrilled, unfertilised

and unsprayed to create a seed source for

turtle doves.

ESTABLISH A WILDLIFE COVER CROP (WILD

BIRD COVER)

This is a good way of introducing seed-rich

habitat to a grassland system.

You can create small plots (eg one acre) of

wildlife cover crop using a biennial mix of

seed-bearing plants such as kale, cereal and

quinoa. For turtle doves, ensure that there are

at least two plots created in alternate years so

that some seed is available in the spring every

year. Use a low seed rate to create an open

crop that gives them access to the ground and

allows some weeds to germinate and seed.

GROW UNSPRAYED SPRING CEREAL CROPS

This can be applied either to whole fields or to

selected headlands.

Insecticides remove beneficial insects and

spiders that move into the crops in the spring.

Herbicides remove broad-leaved weeds that

provide seed food. The loss of this food source

is particularly damaging to turtle doves.

If it is not viable to leave entire crops

unsprayed, either:

use pesticides only when the infestation

exceeds the economic threshold

try to avoid using broad-spectrum

insecticides after 15 March

adopt conservation headlands by not spraying

the outer six metres of cereal fields with

insecticides or herbicides targeted at broadleaved

weeds. You can get agronomic advice

from the Game Conservancy Trust.

INTRODUCE ARABLE HABITATS TO

GRASSLAND SYSTEMS

Introduce arable fodder crops, eg unsprayed

root crops such as swedes. Maize is not

suitable for turtle doves. Alternatively,

create small plots of wildlife cover crop (see

above) to provide a seed-rich habitat in

pastoral areas.

MANAGE HEDGEROWS

Encourage the development of thick, tall

hedges (4 m+ tall by 2 m+ wide). Fence to

prevent grazing, and plant scrub-forming

shrubs such as hawthorn or blackthorn.

Lightly trim the hedge every 2–3 years,

cutting alternate sides each year.

ENCOURAGE SCRUB ALONG THE FIELD EDGE

Encourage the development of thick scrub

alongside hedges, in field corners and along

woodland edges. In grazed situations this

may require fencing.

MAINTAIN OR CREATE LOW-INTENSITY

GRASSLAND HABITATS

Wherever there are species-rich meadows that

can be restored to hay meadow management,

these will boost food for turtle doves on

mixed farmland.

IN CONIFER PLANTATIONS

In and around pre-thicket stage forestry,

create a mosaic containing broad-leaved

scrub, eg birch and hawthorn, to provide nest

sites, open weedy ground to provide a source

of seed food and taller trees to provide song

perches and loafing sites.

ON SET-ASIDE

Create a wildlife cover crop (see above).

Natural regeneration of rotational set-aside

provides a useful seed source, provided that

management can be delayed until July.

The multi-annual set-aside scheme can be

used to cultivate an area of non-rotational setaside

each year to allow broad-leaved weeds

to germinate and seed for turtle doves.

Choose an area with a diverse broad-leaved

weed flora, but with low numbers of the

highly competitive grass weeds and cleavers.

PRIORITY

ACTION

Ensure that there is some

seed food available

throughout the spring and

summer.

Maintain tall thick

hedgerows and areas of

scrub on the farm and

allow the shrub layer to

develop along woodland

edges.

In conifer plantations,

create open weedy ground

within and around prethicket

stage forestry.

Many of these guidelines may be funded

by agri-environment schemes.

For further information, contact:

Farming Connect, Y Lanfa, Trefechan,

Aberystwyth, Ceredigion SY23 1AS.

Tel: 08456 000813

RSPB regd charity no 207076

Line drawing by M Langman

Advisory Officer, The RSPB,

North Wales Office, Maes y

Ffynnon, Penrhosgarnedd, Bangor,

Gwynedd LL57 2DW

Tel: 01248 363800

Countryside Council for Wales,

Maes y Ffynnon, Penrhosgarnedd,

Bangor, Gwynedd LL57 2DW

Tel: 01248 385500

Farming and Wildlife Advisory

Group Cymru, Ffordd Arran,

Dolgellau, Gwynedd LL40 1LW

Tel: 01341 421456

The Game Conservancy

Trust, Fordingbridge,

Hampshire SP6 1EF.

Tel: 01425 652381

223-1601-04-05