Published: 08:59, 23 December 2020
| Updated: 15:34, 20 January 2021
Turtle doves may be associated with the Twelve Days of Christmas, but with a dramatically declining population, the RSPB is calling on people in Kent to help its Operation Turtle Dove.
The bird's population has plummeted by 95% since 1995, according to the charity's research.
But Operation Turtle Dove, a partnership between the RSPB, Pensthorpe Conservation Trust, Natural England and Fair to Nature, has been working to identify and address the issues faced by turtle doves on UK soil, and working with farmers, landowners and communities to help create better breeding and feeding habitat for them.
But anyone can help with the project - and people living in Kent, which is one of the counties the UK's only migratory dove still heads to, are being urged to join in.
Here are four ways you can help support Operation Turtle Dove in 2021:
Create habitat in Turtle Dove Friendly zones
Kent is one of the few remaining UK breeding strongholds for turtle doves. Whether you have a back garden, community green space or commercial land operation, creating suitable habitat of any
size can be invaluable. The conservation organisation’s ambition is to create a landscape of good feeding, breeding and drinking habitat, so new generations can branch out across our countryside and fill it once again. If you have a patch of land you can manage for wildlife, visit the Operation Turtle Dove website here to find out more.
Add a date with a dove to your diary
Turtle doves start to return to England in late April, often around St George’s Day. This year, the RSPB, Rare Birds Breeding Panel, BTO and Natural England are asking eagle-eyed wildlife watchers to help survey the species to get a clearer picture of the national population.
The survey will take place between mid-May and early August across Southern and Eastern England, helping conservationists to identify any previously unrecorded breeding sites. You can help by submitting your own turtle dove sightings via Birdtrack here.
Give the gift of a donation
The conservation work needs financial support too. A small donation can go a long way in helping to create habitat or providing supplementary seed. Make a donation here.
Talk to people about how they can help
Many people have no idea that farmland birds like the turtle dove are struggling and as these birds can be quite shy often only the local residents realise they are nesting nearby. Concerned locals in Marden, sought the advice of Operation Turtle Dove to help challenge a proposed Garden Village scheme, which would have put the breeding and feeding habitat of the village’s turtle dove population at risk.
The Marden site is no longer being considered in the current preferred options consultation for the garden village development.
Find out more at operationturtledove.org