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NEWS RELEASE No: 155265 JULY 2012

Experts in a flutter over turtle dove revival in the woods

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A Dalby Forest landscape

Forestry Commission rangers and volunteers from the North Yorkshire Forest Bird Study Group are venturing into woods to check on a bird which seems to be putting down new roots.

The turtle dove – beloved of the carol The 12 Days of Christmas and usually found near farm land - has suffered such a tailspin decline that it has been put on the Red List of conservation concern.

But in a move that has surprised the experts, the bird seems to be making a new home for itself in North Yorkshire woodlands like Dalby Forest, near Pickering.

In response a first ever survey of the species is being done in local Forestry Commission woods to gauge how many birds are nesting and what they are feeding on.

Pickering-based Mick Carroll, from the North Yorkshire Forest Bird Study Group, said:

“We are hearing the bird's lovely purring song more and more in the woods.  And not just on the forest edge, but in the middle of big forests like Dalby where you would not expect to find them.  Nightjars – a nocturnal ground nesting bird – made a similar switch from heathland to forest clear fell areas so we know that birds can be very adaptable.  It’s all very intriguing and this survey will hopefully shed light on what is going on.”

The turtle dove is smaller and darker than the collared dove and slightly larger than a blackbird.  One theory is that it is feeding on seed from wheat growing along forest roads and rides.  But no one knows for sure.

Brian Hicks, Forestry Commission Ecologist, added:

“Despite featuring in the Christmas carol, the turtle dove is a migratory species and spends winter in warmer climes.  That means the survey has to be done now.  Our public forests offer important habitats for wildlife thanks to sensitive management and on-going work done by our rangers and volunteer conservationists.”


Notes to Editor

  1. Birds on the Red List of conservation concern are subject to at least one of the following factors: globally threatened; historical population decline in UK during 1800–1995; severe (at least 50%) decline in UK breeding population over last 25 years; and severe (at least 50%) contraction of UK breeding range over last 25 years, or the longer-term period.

  2. The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible in England for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment. Forestry makes a real contribution to sustainable development, providing social and environmental benefits arising from planting and managing attractive, as well as productive, woodlands. For more visit

  3. Media calls to Richard Darn on 0775 367 0038.