Habitat use, foraging ecology and diet of Turtle Doves Streptopelia turtur in Britain.
Since 1968, Turtle Doves Streptopelia turtur in Britain have declined in number by 70% and in breeding range by at least 25%. This study was undertaken during the 1998-2000 breeding seasons at two sites in East Anglia to examine habitat use and foraging ecology. Home ranges of radiotagged Turtle Doves were 0.3-1l30 ha in size and contained more woodland than expected from availability. Radiotagged birds undertook foraging trips of up to 10 km. Turtle Doves were recorded feeding primarily at 'man-made' sites (i.e. spilt grain, animal feed and grain stores) and were only infrequently recorded feeding at 'natural' sites. Diet analysis showed that wheat and rape seed averaged 61% of the seeds eaten by Turtle Doves. This contrasts with a study undertaken in Britain in the 1960s, when the seeds of wild plants (weeds) constituted over 90% of those eaten, with wheat and rape seeds making up only 5%. The current arrangements for set-aside and agri-environmental schemes provide a framework for the establishment and maintenance of weed-rich areas on farmland as a source of wild food.