The only birds around at the moment on my local ‘patch’ are a few resident species and a couple of migrant breeders, with the European Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur being a migrant breeding species with a few pairs breeding in Dhahran Camp. The birds we get in Saudi Arabia on passage are the more eastern sub-speces arenicola rather than turtur which occurs in the United Kingdom. The main differences are that arenicola has a pale brown mantle rather than the olive-grey of turtur, and the central rectrices are not blackish as in turtur with arenicola also having very broad and rather pale fringes to scapulars and coverts.
European Turtle Dove is a species which is in considerable decline over much of its breeding range, and is declining in the Riyadh area of Saudi Arabia. This decline was first documented at the beginning of the second part of the 20th century (1970’s), especially in Western Europe where the decline has been strongly linked to intensification of agriculture. The main treats to the species are destruction and modification of the breeding habitats, droughts and climate change in their wintering areas and hunting. The species has a low productivity rate and suffers from low adult and juvenile survivorship and in the United Kingdom the species population declined by 90% between 1997 and 2010. In the European Union the following countries are legally allowed to hunt the species, Austria, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal & Spain were between 2 – 4 million birds are killed each year. Hopefully, the breeding birds in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia as well as Bahrain remain in a healthy state and breeding birds in this region can help balance the serious losses from elsewhere in the species range.
For more information about my birding exploits in the eastern province of Saudi Arabia and ringing trips to Bahrain, please visit my website “Birds of Saudi Arabia“.