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Turtle doves: enjoying the winter-sun

Spring has officially arrived in the Netherlands. Resident birds are now getting up to sing at the crack of dawn, and are busy looking for both mates and suitable nesting places. However, there are many birds we see during the spring and summer that have wintered in warmer climes. The return of these birds is heralded from early-April onwards with the first calling chiffchaffs and the erratic flight of returning swallows, but some species take their time returning to their breeding grounds. Turtle doves are one of these species.


This is the first year that a Dutch turtle dove can be followed online in near real-time (here), and it’s been very interesting to see what he’s been up to since he left the Netherlands in September 2020. His 4200 km journey to his wintering grounds in Africa took Jos just 17 days. After crossing the Sahara Jos arrived on the edge of the Sahel in south Mauritania. Ultimately, Jos has spent most of his winter in just 3 areas of half-open landscapes with riparian forest along the River Senegal and its tributaries.


We know from earlier research in Germany, England and France, that turtle doves begin to get ‘restless’ in April, at which point they will start the long journey back to their breeding grounds. Contrary to many migrating birds, they take their time doing this, flying gradually further north over a period of 5-7 weeks. They arrive back at their Dutch breeding grounds from mid-May to June.


We are already looking forward to their arrival this year!





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