People in love like to be called turtle doves. But the love symbol is hunted massively: In the Mediterranean region alone, 2-3 million turtle doves are shot annually. This is despite the fact that their population in Europe has plummeted by over 70% since 1970. A study by the ornithological station Sempach and the University of Giessen now provides new insights into the migration routes of the turtle dove, which ultimately serves to protect the species.
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Sempach. - The gentle rolling turtle dove’s attractive cooing can be heard less and less often in Switzerland. But the decline of the once common pigeon is also serious in other European countries: since 1970, its population has plummeted by 70%. In addition to climate change and deterioration of habitats in the breeding and wintering areas, hunting is also responsible for this: an estimated 2-3 million Turtle Doves are shot each year in the Mediterranean region alone. A new study published by the ornithological station Sempach and the University of Giessen now shows that especially many turtle doves fall victim to hunting in autumn on their migration to the African wintering grounds.
The Turtle Dove is the only European pigeon that winters south of the Sahara. The ornithological station and its partners can now show for the first time how Central European Turtle Doves reach their wintering grounds. Ring findings show that individuals from Great Britain, Germany and France increasingly migrate on a western route via Spain to Africa. Turtle doves from the Czech Republic and Hungary, on the other hand, choose a central route via Italy or the eastern route via Greece. For the study, 692 ring finds of European Turtle Doves ringed between 1913 and 2011 were evaluated. 418 of these findings were from shot birds, which allowed conclusions to be drawn about hunting.
The additional knowledge about migration routes and hunting of the Turtle Dove gained through this study provides important information about this globally endangered bird species. This is important in order to be able to take appropriate measures for the conservation of resting and wintering areas, as well as for the regulation of hunting.
Marx, M., F. Korner-Nievergelt & P. Quillfeldt (2016): Analysis of ring recoveries of European Turtle Doves Streptopelia turtur - flyways, migration timing and origin areas of hunted birds. Acta Ornithol 51: 55’70.