Establishing nesting habitat

Download Helping your local turtle doves PDF for a handy guide that outlines how you can provide turtle doves with the habitats they need in the UK.

What is good nesting habitat?
In the UK, turtle doves usually nest in tall, dense mature scrub or hedgerows, especially if they contain standard trees, thorny shrubs and climbers. Dense thorny vegetation provides the birds with a safe place to build their nest, which is often just a small collection of twigs.

Providing scrubby habitats can also benefit lots of wildlife – from birds like nightingales and bullfinches to butterflies and other invertebrates.

Good turtle dove nesting habitat can take a long time to develop from scratch, so its essential to protect what’s there. Think about how you can help your neighbours to protect hedgerows and scrubby areas in your local landscape.

Key management tips
To provide the dense scrubby structure that’s ideal nesting habitat for turtle doves, we recommend the following:

  • Areas of scrub or dense hedgerow should be, as a minimum, 3m tall and 4m wide. Allow room for hedges to expand if necessary.
  • Encourage and keep thorny species such as hawthorn or blackthorn.
  • Encourage and keep native climbing plants such as dog rose, clematis or ivy.
  • In the long-term, scrub will eventually turn into woodland and hedges may turn into mature treelines. To maintain the dense, scrubby structure that turtle doves prefer, we recommend that one fifteenth of the area is cut in any one year or, alternatively, that one fifth is cut every three years on a rotational basis.
  • Avoid management and cutting between March and September (inclusive) as turtle doves can still be breeding in August.

Providing suitable turtle dove nesting habitats can be delivered under three Countryside Stewardship options. Option BE3 Management of Hedgerows provides for the management of hedgerows; Options WD7 Management of Successional Areas and Scrub and WD8 Creation of Successional Areas and Scrub provide more specifically for the management and creation of successional areas of scrub.

Woodland Wildlife Toolkit
The Woodland Wildlife Toolkit contains free advice on woodland creation and management, and this includes you stage/scrubby woodland of relevance to turtle doves.

Suitable nesting habitat is depicted in the photographs below.

Examples of good turtle dove nesting habitat