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East Anglian bird helps solve migration mystery

The migration route of a UK breeding turtle dove has, for the first time, been revealed by the RSPB today [Wednesday 24 June 2015] – providing valuable data in the conservation fight to help save the species from UK extinction.

Last August, the RSPB fitted a small, light-weight satellite tag to a turtle dove from Suffolk before it embarked on its mammoth migration journey. In a UK science first, the RSPB was able to track Titan, the tagged turtle dove, on his 5600km migration route from Suffolk to Mali, and back again, all in real time.


Flying mostly under the cover of darkness, Titan flew across epic landscapes such as the Atlas Mountains, Sahara Desert and the Gulf of Cadiz. The satellite tag also uncovered that he travelled around 500-700km per night flying at a maximum speed of 60km per hour.

Titan’s outbound journey to Africa, where he wintered for six months, took around a month to complete. On his return the avian jetsetter spent two weeks making his way through France, initially following the Atlantic coast, before leaving from Dunkirk and touching down in Suffolk. The latest satellite reading shows that Titan has returned to the same area he was first found and tagged in Suffolk.

East Anglia is on the front line of efforts to save UK turtle doves as the region supports nearly two-thirds of the current breeding population. Learning more about the bird’s migration route is part of a wider drive to save the species, known as ‘Operation Turtle Dove,’ with much of the conservation work taking place in the eastern region.

For more information on Titan’s journey and how the RSPB and Operation Turtle Dove partners are helping to stop turtle dove declines visit: rspb.org.uk/titan

• Turtle Dove picture from RSPB collection, Andy Hay

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