According to the RSPB, Turtle Doves are the most likely bird to go extinct within our shores by 2020. The decline in this lovely species over the past few decades has been catastrophic. In the 1960s there were an estimated 125,000 pairs of Turtle Doves in Britain. That number has declined 96%. In Sussex, considered one of its last strongholds, we probably have fewer than 200 pairs.
Trouble on its long migration route from sub-Saharan Africa is undoubtedly partly responsible for its steep decline: periodic droughts, changes in land use, loss of roosting sites, increasing desertification and hunting in Africa - and then there's the stupendous hazard of crossing the firing squads of the Mediterranean. In Malta alone, the slaughter claims 100,000 turtle doves every season. Around 800,000 are killed in Spain.
But while Turtle Dove numbers are declining across Europe, by far the steepest descent has been in Britain - where we do not shoot them. Here, the decline is almost entirely to do with loss of habitat and food resources.
16 singing males were recorded on 1,100 acres of the southern estate in 2017, compared with three on the whole estate in 1999.