In past years, many readers will have heard the persistent purring of male turtle doves, especially behind the up-platform at Rye station in trees threatened by housing plans, but this year there has been only one report.
A male is still purring regularly by the railway at Gibbet Marsh and one or two birds are present in that area. There’s a pair at another regular site on the western edge of Rye and purring has been heard at Winchelsea, but previous sites on Rye Hill and in Playden have drawn a blank.
A small group of local birders are following the fortunes of these beautiful doves, Europe’s fastest-declining bird as featured recently on Channel 4 News. They are summer visitors from tropical Africa and face many threats on migration, especially from hunters. This year the RSPB is carrying out a national survey following a county survey in 2019 which estimated just 80 pairs in the whole of Sussex compared with 300 ten years earlier – and Rye is one of perhaps five key areas for turtle doves in Sussex.
Turtle doves are slightly smaller than the familiar all-grey collared dove and much smaller than woodpigeons, with wings patterned black and chestnut, and a white patch on the neck streaked with black. Males don’t coo but ‘sing’ with a low and quite penetrating purring. They like tall trees with a good view. Like other pigeons, birds often forage on the ground under bird feeders.
Our group would much appreciate any reports and photos, especially from the villages, which should be emailed to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image Credits: James Tomlinson .