The European Turtle Dove in the ecotone between woodland and farmland: multi-scale habitat associations and implications for the design of management interventions

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Carles Carboneras, Lara Moreno-Zarate, Beatriz Arroyo


The European Turtle Dove (turtle dove) is a globally threatened species that is undergoing a sustained and generalised decline across its breeding range, with habitat deterioration and loss suggested as the main driver. Here, we review the scientific literature on habitat associations across the European breeding range, in relation to turtle dove distribution, breeding numbers, nesting substrates and food and foraging habitats, to identify optimal habitat management measures. Large-scale (national) distribution seemed to depend on the availability, but not dominance, of forest; abundance at the landscape scale was generally higher in woodland than on farmland, highlighting the importance of forest habitats for the species. However, abundance in woodland increased with additional structural diversity and proximity to farmland, and abundance on farmland increased with greater availability of non-farmland features (including forest patches, shrubs, hedges), indicating a preference in this species for a mixture of habitats. Nesting occurred most frequently on trees (secondarily on bushes) but we found geographical differences in the type of nesting substrate, with thorny bushes (or trees with lianas) being used more frequently in the north, and open canopy trees (including ever-green oaks and olive trees) in the south. Turtle doves used a wide spectrum of food items with a predominance of wild seeds, particularly of early-flowering plants, but we could not identify a single plant species whose abundance determined turtle dove numbers. In several parts of the distribution range, a shift from wild to cultivated seeds occurred as the season progressed. However, various results indicate that interventions to improve food availability should favour the provision of wild seeds rather than of crop seeds. Our review indicates that the most efficient habitat management interventions depend on the dominant landscape (farmland or woodland) and that, overall, interventions should seek to augment the heterogeneity of the landscape by increasing the mixing of farmland and woodland. Forestry and agricultural policies should be combined to provide the right conditions for species that favour the ecotone between woodland and farmland, like the turtle dove.



Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Life Sciences


conservation, diet, migratory species, nesting, Species Action Plan, Streptopelia turtur


Published: 2021-04-19 21:55

Last Updated: 2021-05-07 09:59

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