Caught by the River

Matt's Bird of the Week

Matt Sewell | 7th November 2016


A Pitying of Turtle Doves
By Matt Sewell

The turtle dove is very much on trend this season; it’s the soft pastel layers with the graphic detailing. Oh so cool, but also so very rare – and becoming rarer. It is looking very possible that this beautiful dove will be extinct from the UK in the next few years. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) have set up Operation Turtledove to help combat the decline, so hopefully it’s not too late, as the problem is actually quite simple, albeit all too common: habitat loss. Britain just isn’t wild enough anymore, it’s hard to go anywhere on the isles that is truly wild, for everywhere is fenced off and managed. We need farms to reintroduce the wildflower meadows that provide these summer visitors with the right food and shelter, so that they can raise their young in their favourite home sweet home. If this doesn’t happen, quite simply they will never come back. We also really need to stop them getting shot in the Mediterranean too.

On a happier note – literally – I do really love this collective noun. As anybody who has been lucky enough to hear a turtle dove sing can attest, it is a very tender and empathetic ballad; a song that, when in chorus, would feel very much like the offering of pity and compassion to a friend.

We need to return the sympathy and make a stand before it is too late.


From the Caught by the River Book of the Month for October, A Charm of Goldfinches and Other Collective Nouns.

Signed copies can be found in our shop, priced £12

Matt Sewell on Caught by the River / on Twitter