Turtle doves on the brink of extinction

The turtle dove is the fastest declining bird species in the UK and on the brink of extinction.

There are now only 2,100 breeding pairs in the UK, the first national survey of the endangered birds has found.

Huge numbers are shot by hunters in Europe on their annual migration flight of more than 3,000 miles to spend the winter in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

They are thought to be in decline due to a lack of seeds they eat from crops in the spring and summer.

The research shows a 98 per cent reduction in turtle dove numbers in the last half-century. 

The estimated 2,100 pairs in Britain last year is down from 125,000 in 1970. 

Andrew Stanbury, of the RSPB, said: ‘Although these results paint a stark picture with numbers, the way forward is clear and we stand a good chance of turning around the fortunes of this bird.’

Almost 1,000 volunteers, farmers, study groups and county bird clubs took part in the survey. Conservationists also say they hope numbers will increase following hunting bans in France, Spain and Portugal.