RSPB launches project to help save the turtle dove

East Anglian farmers are being asked to help scientists discover why turtle doves are disappearing from the countryside.

Bird numbers have declined 88% since 1970 mainly due to the loss of some arable weeds, which produce seeds the birds feed on.

The RSPB fears the species could die out altogether if the coalition government cuts funding for environment schemes in the countryside.

Therefore, the RSPB and Natural England have begun a three-year research project to help save the disappearing dove.

The project is seeking 16 farms in East Anglia to take part, which already have at least two pairs of nesting turtle doves.

Trial plots of seed rich plants like fumitory, clover and wetch will be sown on farms from this autumn. Birds will be monitored for their feeding habits and breeding attempts.

“Turtle doves were once widespread but are now mostly found in East Anglia and south-east England,” said RSPB conservation scientist Jenny Dunn.

“While they used to breed up to four times a year, recent research shows that they now struggle to get into breeding condition and can only make one or two attempts.

“They are the only migratory bird which survives solely on seeds and we believe a factor in their decline is the loss of certain arable weeds from our farmed countryside.”

The RSPB hopes the research will help create a new option in agri-environment stewardship schemes, which will be taken up by farmers across the country.

For more information email Dr Dunn at