Saturday, July 14, 2018

Dove Tales

I found an interesting piece on-line about the work of scientists at Lincoln University UK. It concerns the Turtle Dove, another rapidly declining bird of British farmland. The Turtle Dove is without doubt the most beautiful of the UK family of wild doves and pigeons. 

Turtle Dove  

Turtle Doves are pretty rare on the west coast where I live but they cling on in southern and eastern parts of the UK. Many years ago I used to see lots of Turtle Doves on family drives to the east coast of the UK when groups of the doves would scatter at sight of an approaching car. Like those other members of the pigeon family, Collared Dove, Stock Dove and Woodpigeon, the Turtle Dove is not averse to early morning feeds along the carriageways of major roads where they find grit essential to grind up their diet of grain. I believe that those self-same roads of Middle England and Yorkshire no longer produce anything like the number of Turtle Dove sightings due to the species’ decline. 

I see lots of Turtle Doves each year when we holiday in Menorca where they are still fairly common, but even here I have seen a decline in 15 years of visiting the island. It’s no secret that many, many thousands of migrating Turtle Doves are shot in the Mediterranean area each year, the main culprit being the island of Malta where at least 10,000 Turtle Doves were shot during 2015. 

Turtle Dove 

“New research into Britain's fastest declining bird species has found that young Turtle Doves raised on a diet of seeds foraged from non-cultivated arable plants rather than foods provided in people’s gardens are more likely to survive after fledging. 

Ecologists at the University of Lincoln investigated the dietary habits of adult and nestling European Turtle Dove -- a IUCN Red List Threatened Species -- breeding in the UK, using DNA analysis of faecal samples. They found significant associations between the body condition and the diet of the bird. 

Nestling Turtle Doves still being fed by their parents were found to thrive on seeds foraged from non-cultivated arable plants such as scarlet pimpernel and chickweed, but the birds were in poorer condition when their diet was high in seeds provided by humans in back gardens or public spaces. In contrast, adult body condition was better when more cultivated seeds such as wheat, oil seed rape and barley were present in the diet. 

Data collected for the study, which was carried out in collaboration with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the University of Sheffield and Cardiff University, was compared with the results of previous studies carried out in the 1960s and 1990s. It revealed a fundamental shift in the diet of Turtle Doves, showing that the birds are now relying more heavily on food found in gardens, such as sunflower and niger seeds, than they did 50 years ago. 

As the UK's fastest declining bird species, the results of the study have important implications for conservation strategies to save the Turtle Dove. Previous research has shown that nestling birds with better body condition are more likely to survive after fledging and strategies should be developed to provide the correct diet for the bird at each stage of its life. 

Turtle Dove 

Dr Jenny Dunn, Lecturer in Animal Health and Disease in the University of Lincoln's School of Life Sciences, led the research. She said: "Turtle Doves are the UK's fastest declining bird, with a loss of 98% of breeding birds since 1970. Researchers are trying to tackle the problem by identifying ways to provide food resources for the species while they are breeding in the UK, but for this to be effective we need to understand the birds' food sources and the impact they have on both adults and their young. 

"The results of this study suggest that conservation strategies should include provision of anthropogenic seeds for adults early in the breeding season, coupled with habitat rich in accessible seeds from arable plants once chicks have hatched." 

To understand the diet of the birds, researchers caught Turtle Doves on breeding grounds at 11 sites across East Anglia, and extracted DNA from the faecal samples which enabled them to identify the diet of each bird. Their body condition was also examined, and nest sites monitored. Further research is now needed to link the findings of the study to the use of habitats provided for Turtle Doves through agri-environment schemes.” 

Turtle Dove 

Thanks go to University of Lincoln. "Garden seed diet for threatened turtle doves has negative impact."  Science Daily  June 2018

This research may have implications for other species that regularly feed in gardens on supplementary food.  I guess the moral of the story is that when using additional feed systems in our gardens we should aim to provide food that is as near to a birds natural diet as possible.  Don’t feed on the cheap, and always buy the best you can afford.

Linking today to Eileen's Blog.


Jo said...

Hello Phil, I love that you're a wordsmnith as well as a top birder! So sad that the turtle dove is in decline. Thanks for sharing this interesting information. Jo

David M. Gascoigne, said...

It is indeed a beautiful bird - I have seen it, but never in the UK. As for buying bird seed, I can only second what you say. Buy the best quality you can afford. You are after all trying to help the bird even if you are feeding primarily for your own entertainment. The sheer number of species in decline is really getting to be depressing. Have a good week, Phil.

EricaSta said...

A lovely Bird Indeed.

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

I've never seen a dove with the beautiful wings before, a turtle dove. Lovely photos.

Lady Fi said...

Such pretty markings on those wings.

Rhodesia said...

A beautiful bird but I always wonder how much good we are doing feeding the birds in the garden. On the other hand how many do not make it through winter without the extra support. We try to buy good seed, but it is not as easy finding it here as in the UK I have found. Take care Diane

Patrycja P. said...

I've never seen a Turtle Dove, this bird is also not very common here. I hope this study will help us to protect Turtle Doves not only in UK. Regards!

eileeninmd said...

Hello, the Turtle Dove is pretty. Great series of photos.

Have a happy day!

Lowcarb team member said...

Such a lovely looking bird.
Yes, I'm sure it is best to buy the best bird food you can and always important to match it to as near to the birds natural diet as possible.

All the best Jan

eileeninmd said...

Hello, Phil! Interesting information and post on the Turtle Dove. They are pretty. Love the photos. Thank so much for linking up and sharing your post. Happy Saturday, enjoy your weekend!

Betty Crow said...

Turtle doves are so pretty. We have a lot of them around here, but none colored quite like these. I hope they thrive and multiply.

A Colorful World said...

Fascinating information about the turtle dove. How to help these declining species, is such a hard thing! They are really beautiful birds! I just finished reading a book called The Genius of Birds and learned a lot about different species. So interesting! By the way, your comment about the fledged magpies was so intriguing! I remember my nextdoor neighbor (the magpie nest was in a tree between our properties) telling me about a hullabaloo one morning with some birds attacking the nest. I don't know what type of birds they were but they caused a lot of stress on the magpies. She threw rocks at the other birds. This was maybe two weeks before I took my photos. Maybe it happened several times and the chicks were forced to fledge early. I am going to ask her what kind of birds attacked the nest and if she noticed it happening more than once. Thanks for telling me they seemed young to be out and about, or I wouldn't have put the two things together.

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

They are so beautiful! We have a pair coming to our courtyard and they love to eat off the ground under the feeders. Love your photos and info! I'm always learning something new when I visit you!

A Colorful World said...

Asked my nextdoor neighbor which birds bothered the magpie nest and she said they were crows. And she has seen crows destroy a magpie nest before. So, that was sad and also interesting. But the babies seem to be doing fine.

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