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Captive Breeding & Release

Foundation Flocks

Here are some of the young Java Doves which will be selected as foster parents for rearing Turtle Doves during the 2021 breeding season.

We maintain a resident foundation breeding stock of around 100 pairs of Turtle Doves.

In addition, we maintain a permanent Foster Parenting Flock of around 175 pairs of Java Doves to incubate and rear Turtle Dove eggs that have been abandoned or “lifted”. This system allows for many more Turtle Doves to be reared and released each season.

Both flocks are fed on a top-quality balanced seed diet in order to maintain their vitality and health throughout the year.

Ringing a Squab

When fitting a closed ring onto a young Turtle Dove nestling the three front toes are held together while the ring is slipped over them and the ball of the foot; the back toe slides up the leg until the ring passes the toe. This method prevents the ring falling off the nestling and cannot be taken off when it’s fully grown.


This shows a Turtle Dove egg being “candled” to determine if it is fertile and to see the stage of development of the embryo. There is a clear line separating the dark embryo from the very light air-sac end of the egg.

Expert aviculturist to the Trust preparing to ring a nestling

Getting the Job Done

The insert shows the closed, seamless leg rings used to identify the birds bred by the Trust. They are made from 6mm diameter light metal and annually colour coded. The “P” denotes the ring size and “20” denotes the year. The Sightings page provides further details and references to the IOA who have kindly donated these closed rings and have offered to pass on any information they might receive from sightings, BTO ringing exercises or any casualties which might be found and reported.

Holding, Orientation & Release

Our larger release enclosures measure 80’L x 30’W x 15’H and are built from 11 poly tunnel hoops and strong but soft netting which helps to protect flying Doves from damaging their feathers. Hanging perches and roosting areas are carefully arranged with wooden boxes to provide additional shelter. A central door with a sliding hatch operated from outside divides the enclosure into two unequal sections. A stainless-steel header tank provides an automatic and constant supply of fresh water to large earthenware drinkers. These sit on semi-bare ground covered with different sands, gravels and chippings which provide different surfaces on which the Turtle Doves can learn to forage.

The young, fledged Turtle Doves are released into a larger section of the enclosure (7 hoops), where they are able to learn to forage for scattered seeds and find water. After a few weeks they are allowed to filter into the smaller section (4 hoops), where they will eventually find a “pop hole” to the outside world and freedom. The “pop hole” remains open at all times, allowing their return to the enclosure for food and water until they are eventually bold enough to venture away.

A release site in North Norfolk. NB: plenty of surrounding bare ground
A Turtle Dove perched on the outside of an enclosure; on top of the net.
Turtle Doves perched in a dead tree in close proximity to an open release enclosure.

The releases are managed to coincide with the local Oilseed Rape and Barley harvest to ensure a maximum amount of feed is available for foraging. In addition, close proximity anchor points enable the young released Turtle Doves to return to their release enclosure for food and water until such time they are ready to venture away.