Today our #MagnificentTurtledove has set off on its epic migratory adventure towards its wintering grounds in Sub-Saharan Africa. Back in the spring, we told the story of its incredible journey from Niger to Europe. After a 4,000 km flight, including a dangerous crossing of the Ionian Islands – one of the worst illegal bird killing blackspots along the African-Eurasian flyway – our Turtle-dove made it safely to the Czech Republic. Here, our BirdLife partner, the Czech Society for Ornithology (ČSO), gave it a warm welcome by crowning the European turtle-dove its 2019 ‘Bird of the Year’!
This award is usually given to common birds like the Robin. But this year, the ČSO conservation team decided to introduce the Czech people to a rare bird that was once widespread across their countryside. In the 19th century, the turtle-dove’s gentle “turr turr” call signaled the start of spring. The famous Czech poet Karel Hynek Mácha described this call as the sound of “the time of love”. But as has happened in the rest of Europe, the Czech turtle-dove population has halved since the 1980s due to extreme habitat loss from intensive farming. “The turtle-dove needs a colorful landscape with dense strips of shrubbery. It cannot nest in large fields without meadows and bushes” explains Václav Zámečník, ČSO’s agriculture expert. And because of herbicides, he adds, “it does not find enough seeds to feed on.”
As part of the ‘Bird of the Year’ celebrations, ČSO raised over 147,000 Czech Koruna (nearly 6000 EUR) in less than two weeks for BirdLife’s ‘Flight for Survival’ campaign. These donations will go directly towards the protection of the turtle-dove, and other threatened migratory birds in the Czech Republic. They will also fund critical, on-the-ground conservation action to stop illegal bird killing in the Mediterranean. BirdLife says a huge THANK YOU to ČSO and the Czech bird lovers who generously donated these much-needed funds!