Turtle doves: An artist’s perspective

Certain species really capture people’s imagination and the turtle dove is no exception. We invited artist Steve Kershaw to share how this very bird has come to inspire him.

It seems like only yesterday that warm summers in the south of England resonated to the soft purring of one of our most iconic birds as it’s gentle murmuring  song drifted across the countryside on the breeze. It’s a sad fact that you only notice this when it is no longer there.

The Turtle Dove was part of a rich tapestry of rural life, in much the same way as wild flowers and the song of the Skylark, all of which are scarce to find these days. We are beginning to understand the reasons for the decline of such species now thanks to the efforts of organizations like the RSPB and when Operation Turtle Dove was launched, I felt that I had to try to help in some way, however small. I wanted to do more than just send a donation so it seemed that the natural thing to do to raise awareness of the campaign was through art, and hopefully raise some money at the same time. With help from the staff at RSPB Rye Meads we launched a raffle and I set about collecting sketches and photos as reference material for my painting! Easier said than done!

Throughout the spring and summer of 2013 I spent a great deal of time scouring various places in Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire for signs of Turtle Doves with limited success! It was during a holiday in Norfolk that I found what I was looking for as on a warm afternoon at at Holme Dunes I got some brilliant close views of Turtle Doves frolicking among the wild flowers and shingle and this gave me the inspiration for my painting. A visit to Pensthorpe where they have a captive breeding program provided many sketches and photographs and so when I got home it didn’t take long to produce the finished painting!


I have been drawing birds ever since I was a young child and I am now establishing myself as a wildlife artist. I work mainly in watercolour as I find this medium suits my rather impressionistic style. A love of birds and art are for me, a natural way of expressing my passion and allow me to share a love of wildlife with others. If we can all pull together to halt the decline of what we once took for granted, I feel sure that all of our lives will be enriched and we will still have a legacy to pass on to our children? We should also encourage them to draw and paint, after all, it did me no harm!

Inspired to take action for Turtle Doves too? You can contribute to Operation Turtle Dove here.

From an original post on the RSPB Community pages: