Archived 2015 topics: European Turtle-dove (Streptopelia turtur) – uplist from Least Concern to Near Threatened or Vulnerable?

European Turtle-dove Streptopelia turtur is a widespread migrant breeder across much of central and southern Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, wintering mainly in the Sahel zone of Africa. It is currently listed as Least Concern, because when last assessed it was not thought to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under any of the IUCN Red List criteria.

Globally, it has an extremely large range in both the breeding season (>17 million km2) and in winter (>4 million km2), and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criteria (B and D2). Its population size is also extremely large (with 6.3–11.9 million mature individuals in Europe alone; BirdLife International 2015), and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criteria (C and D1). Therefore, the only potentially relevant criterion is A, which relates to reductions in population size. Until recently, the population was thought to be declining slowly, but not sufficiently rapidly to approach the threshold for listing as Vulnerable under criterion A (at least a 30% decline over ten years or three generations, whichever is longer).

New data collated from across Europe for the European Red List of Birds (BirdLife International 2015) indicate that the species has declined significantly in recent years, and that this decline is ongoing. A combination of official data reported by 27 EU Member States to the European Commission under Article 12 of the EU Birds Directive and comparable data from other European countries, provided by BirdLife Partners and other leading national ornithologists, suggests that the European breeding population has declined overall by 30–35% over the last three generations (15.9 years, based on a generation length estimated by BirdLife to be 5.3 years). This corresponds well with the declining trend reported by PECBMS (the Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme). Consequently, the species is now classified as Vulnerable at European level (BirdLife International 2015).

Based on its distribution, Europe holds around 50% of the global breeding range, with the remainder in Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. The formerly large population in European Russia has crashed by >80% since 2000 and by >90% since 1980 (BirdLife International 2015), so at least some decline east of the Urals also seems likely. Declines have also been reported from parts of E and SE Kazakhstan, e.g. in the Manrak Mountains, where it was previously common, the species is now rare or even absent (Wassink & Oreel 2008). Little or no information is available about the species’ population status or trends in other parts of its global range, but if it is declining overall at a similar rate to what has been observed in Europe, then it may qualify for uplisting to Near Threatened or even Vulnerable under criterion A.

Comments on this proposal are welcome, along with any data regarding the recent trend of its breeding population in Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, and of its wintering population in the Sahel, along with any additional information about the threats currently affecting this species across its range.


BirdLife International (2015) European Red List of Birds. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.

Wassink, A. & Oreel, G.J. (2008) Birds of Kazakhstan: new and interesting data. Dutch Birding 30: 93-100.


EDIT 09/09/15:

The attached PDF shows the map from Kazakhstan referred to by Raffael Ayé in his post of 07 September – please see this for further details.

Streptopelia turtur Ayé 2015

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8 Responses to Archived 2015 topics: European Turtle-dove (Streptopelia turtur) – uplist from Least Concern to Near Threatened or Vulnerable?

  1. Andy Symes (BirdLife) says:

    Milan Vogrin provided the following comment:

    Is one of species which in my opinion decline very fast in Central Europe, specially in agricultural landscape. It should be posted in higher level.

  2. Andy Symes (BirdLife) says:

    Yoav Perlman and colleagues at Israel Ornithological Center / Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel have provided a summary of the status of European Turtle-dove in Israel, copied here:

    There is no monitoring data on this species. However, it seems that if there are any declines they are local only, and do not necessarily reflect the general trend in Israel.

  3. Michele Sorrenti says:

    The species is increasing as breeder in Italy from 2000 to 2013 ( At the moment there are not reliable data on harvest in italian region that could give some idea of trends of migrant population. Such data are in course of elaboration but they will be available in september. Data from mediterranean countries including North Africa are urgent. I propose to give some more time for collecting data on such species.

  4. Although the species decreasing long-term (since 1980) trend is very high (60-80%), the short-term (last decade) trend is not so dramatic (5-10%) in Lithuania. The sort-term negative trend can be related with intensification of the agriculture after the joining EU, although, not big changes of the species breeding habitats are observed comparing with 1980-ies. According to our opinion, the main problems are not in the breeding grounds, but somewhere on the migration or in wintering areas.

  5. Andy Symes (BirdLife) says:

    Preliminary proposals

    Based on available information, our preliminary proposal for the 2015 Red List would be to treat:

    European Turtle-dove as Near Threatened under criterion A2+3+4.

    Further information, in particular from the range outside of Europe (North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia) would still be very helpful.

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline of 31 August, after which the recommended categorisation will be put forward to IUCN.

    The final Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife website in late October and on the IUCN website in November, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

  6. Raffael Ayé says:

    Tobias Roth, Manuel Schweizer, Roman Kashkarov, Oleg Mitropolskiy and myself have built up a database of bird records from Central Asia (AFG, KAZ, KGZ, TJK, TKM, UZB). While the below considerations heavily rely on their work and specifically on Tobias’s calculations, my four colleagues may or may not agree with the interpretations and conclusions.

    We have taken all observations (n=10’326) from the last ten years (1st Jan 2006 up to today) and then defined the previous period with the same number (10’326) of observations. That period is 1962 to 2005 (with a bias towards recent years).

    For each period, Tobias plotted all 10’326 observations on a map and added the observations of the target species in red. Plotting all 10’326 observations gives an idea, where ornithologists who provided data for our database were active. And the red crosses give an idea of the distribution of the target species. The comparison of the two maps might give hints to changes in the distribution.

    We did this for Black-bellied Sandgrouse, European Turtle-Dove and European Roller.

    The maps need to be interpreted with a lot of caution. There are numerous data sources included in the database and there may be numerous unknown factors that influence the probability of encountering the three species. To give just one example, we do not know, whether all observers diligently recorded observations of these relatively common species.

    For both Black-bellied Sandgrouse and European Roller, there are changes in the “apparent distribution” between the two periods. Most changes look like they could be caused by data availability (no or very limited data from a specific region, not only target species missing). If anything, these four maps rather look like these two species had a wider distribution in the last ten years than in the previous period. However, this cannot be concluded with any certainty.

    For the European Turtle-Dove, the two maps might be consistent with a range loss or with a lower encounter probability in the second period. Notably, extensive areas within the breeding range of the species in Kazakhstan were visited by ornithologists, but yielded only very few data points in the last ten years.

    Additionally, we calculated the number of records (observations) and the mean number of individuals per record (“flock size”) of each of the three species for each of the two periods. Given that the total number of records is the same for both periods (10’326), a naive assumption and my null hypothesis is that the number of records and the “flock size” should be similar in both periods.

    B-b Sandgrouse: 29 and 57 records; 30.5 and 42.6 ind/record.
    European Roller: 73 and 69 records; 7.0 and 6.2 ind/record.
    Eur. Turtle-Dove: 34 and 18 records; 5.4 and 4.2 ind/record.

    Again, these numbers should be interpreted with caution. The same factors as mentioned above, could also play a role here. Moreover, some observers just indicate a species as “present”, which is translated as “minimum of 1 ind.” in our database and will be calculated as one individual.

    The numbers look like they might suggest an increase in numbers of Black-bellied Sandgrouse and rather constant numbers of European Rollers. And the numbers look suggestive of a decrease of European Turtle-Dove.

    Taken together, the maps and the numbers fail to show evidence of a decline for Black-bellied Sandgrouse and European Roller. I think that, a strong or moderate decline of these two species is unlikely, while a weaker decline cannot be excluded due to limitations in our data and the simplistic approach. However, our limited data is suggestive of a decline of European Turtle-Dove in Central Asia over the last 2 to 4 decades. And this decline could possibly be moderate or even strong according to the data available.
    This is not rocket science. Given the heterogeneous data sources, we cannot be certain about these conclusions and I would be very happy to hear from ornithologists in the region whether their personal observations agree with these thoughts or not.


    Best regards,

  7. Ian Burfield (BirdLife) says:

    Roman Kashkarov (Executive Director, Uzbekistan Society for the Protection of Birds) has provided the following information, which Raffael Ayé has kindly translated from Russian into English:

    Over the last 30 years, this species was reduced in numbers more than 10 times. For this, there were three causes. 1 – intensive hunting because it was an easy and popular object of hunting. 2- Eur. Turtle-Dove stopped in the autumn to feed and rest on the edge of oases where there was a gradient of field crops and a number of trees to rest and a low level of disturbance. Over the past 30 years the oases greatly expanded and these places disappeared. An increase of the larger Collared Dove in these areas has also been adverse. 3 in the cities where Eur. Turtle-Dove nest, the composition of trees changed, disturbance increased, increased the number of Mynahs. I saw hardly any nesting Eur. Turtle-Dove in Tashkent for 15 years. Therefore, this species is really threatened due to habitat loss. We also plan to include it in the national Red Data Book.

  8. Andy Symes (BirdLife) says:

    Recommended categorisation to be put forward to IUCN

    Based on further information received, we have been able to change the preliminary proposal and revise the recommended classification on the 2015 Red List to Vulnerable under criterion A.

    The final categorisation will be published on the BirdLife website in late October and on the IUCN website in November, following further checking of information relevant to the assessment by BirdLife and IUCN.

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