Cambridgeshire Bird Club

Cambridgeshire Turtle Dove Survey  2016

The Turtle Dove is one of the UK's fastest declining birds, with Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) data indicating a 91% population decline during 1995–2013, and the recent Bird Atlas showing a 51% decrease in occupied 10-km squares in Britain between 1968–72 and 2007–11. The species has been on the Red list of Birds of Conservation Concern in the UK since the first such assessment in 1996, and was recently classified as globally threatened (‘Vulnerable’) in the 2015 IUCN Red List.

Data from BBS squares within Cambridgeshire (on average 0.1 individuals per square during 2013–14 cf. 1.3 during 1995–96) and from the Cambridgeshire Bird Atlas (some breeding evidence reported for 32% of tetrads during 2008–2011 cf. at least 48% of tetrads in Old Cambridgeshire during 1988–1992 and 92% of tetrads in Huntingdonshire during 1979–1983) imply that the species has fared similarly poorly locally, with the most recent population estimate for the county suggesting that just 150–300 pairs may persist.

As part of an attempt to carry out an ‘audit’ of the county's remaining breeding Turtle Doves – and assess the feasibility of a more formal/structured survey in 2017 – we urge everyone to report all Cambridgeshire records of the species in 2016, either directly to the Club (see Records page) or using BirdTrack (as also encouraged by Operation Turtle Dove). To assist with the interpretation of records, any details of breeding evidence (e.g. ‘purring’ males, pairs in suitable nesting habitat, territorial behaviour observed over a week or more) would be extremely helpful, as would any indication that individuals were probably only passing through (e.g. flying over or not in an area with potentially suitable nesting habitat). Information on precise location, such as a six-figure grid reference (or the 1-km square), would also be much appreciated. Grid references can be obtained online using the Grab a Grid Reference tool.

If you use BirdTrack, please use the main ‘Breeding Status’ drop-down to capture the highest level of breeding evidence (including ‘Non-breeding’; see above), and the ‘Breeding’ tab (under ‘Optional’ details) if more than one code applies (e.g. a pair in suitable habitat [P], plus an additional purring male [S]). Six-figure grid references can be (obtained and) entered in the ‘Pinpoint’ tab. Any supplementary information (which can often be very useful!) can be entered in the ‘Comments’ tab.

If you submit records to CBC using the Club's recording spreadsheet, please capture the key information outlined above in the ‘Notes’ field (e.g. ‘Male purring in same area as 18th May (TL406455) from c.07:15–07:25.’). As per this example, we are interested in the time of records – particularly of purring males – as patterns in (vocal) activity throughout the day may help inform the design of future surveys. Related to this, if you visit a site that you know has one or more occupied territories, but you don't record the species during that visit, we would be interested in receiving details of the visit – e.g. date, times and any factors, such as unsuitable weather, that may have affected ‘detectability’ – by email (see below).

If you currently only report records for the CBC ‘What's About?’ page or via Cambirds, please do consider adopting one of the methods above for your Turtle Dove (and Spotted Flycatcher; see here) records this season. Failing that, please cc the Club's Research Officer, Rob Pople (, when emailing sightings to Paul and Pete for the ‘What's About?’ page, and include the additional information requested above in your message (more sensitive details will not be shared). Similarly, if you recorded more details than you put in your Cambirds post (and please do err on the side of caution if you have any concerns over potential disturbance), please do email these to Rob in due course at the address above.

Turtle Dove


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