1. The turtle dove is an easy bird to identify, with mottled brown and black wings, black tail, pale breast and notable black-and-white-striped neck patch.
2. It is smaller than the collared dove and slightly larger than the blackbird.
3. Turtle dove numbers have dropped rapidly since the mid 1960s. The decline is thought to be down to changes in farming practice, such as reduced access to seed and reduction in hedgerow breeding sites.
4. The species is now included on the Red List of conservation concern and is protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
5. Further threats to this species occur outside the UK on the long migration to Africa and after arrival. It is shot in huge numbers during migration through France, Spain and Morocco.
6. This migrating species spends the winter in sub-Saharan Africa.
7. It arrives in the UK in late April and May, leaving again between July and September.
8. It is mostly spotted in southern and eastern England, although it does reach as far as Wales.
9. The turtle dove’s Latin name is Streptopelia turtur. The second part comes from the bird’s soft ‘turr turr’ call.
10. Possibly because of Biblical references (such as the Song of Songs) to turtle doves and because the birds form strong pair bonds, they have become cultural emblems of devoted love.