The Song of Solomon talks of the voice of the turtle being heard in the land – that was the Turtle Dove, not some warbling reptile. But it is a song rather rarely heard in the land these days. The Turtle Dove was once a very common bird in southeast England and its purring was a backdrop to many a picnic or beer in a country pub.
The last record I have of seeing a Turtle Dove in the UK was in May 2017 at the RSPB nature reserve at Frampton Marsh where they are still quite a good bet.
In my youth I remember being driven to East Anglia in the school holidays in what was probably 1971. Coming from the West Country, and being a novice birder, I’d never seen a Turtle Dove before but as soon as we started crossing The Fens near Wicken there were Turtle Doves everywhere – in the fields, in the villages and perched along roadside telephone wires. There were scores of them – a new bird for me but after a day or so utterly familiar with its wedge-shaped tail with white edges. And the song was omnipresent- now you’d be very lucky to track one down.
It’s a simple but strangely alluring song. Here’s one from France;
and another from Poland:
and another from the UK:
I always think of Turtle Doves as being May birds but they come back to us in late April. Good luck in listening out for them – you’ll probably have to be in Suffolk, Essex, Kent or Sussex to have the best chance. And your chances of hearing them are falling every year. I was planning to spend this weekend with a group of friends in Suffolk – we would have talked about life, the universe and Wild Justice and we would have listened for Turtle Doves at a farm where they sang a decade ago. Maybe later this summer – or maybe next year.