Updated: Mar 26, 2021

In September, shortly following the suspension of Turtle Dove hunting in France, ‘Jos’ left his Dutch breeding grounds in Zeeland and headed south. The journey to his wintering grounds in the Sub-Saharan Sahel region of Africa took him over the Mediterranean, Atlas Mountains and the Sahara – a one-way trip of 4200km, taking 17 days. Since he arrived in the Sahel, Jos has spent the bulk of his time at 2 different locations, both along the Senegal River and its tributaries.

Turtle Doves from Western Europe follow what is known as the ‘Western Flyway’, which goes through France, Spain and Morocco. Suitable wintering habitat needs to have food, water and good roosting locations. Doves tend to use acacia scrub and trees for roosting, and research indicates that crops such as peanut, sorghum and millet, and natural scrubby grassland could be important to the species. If any one of these 3 things is missing, Turtle Doves quickly move on to other areas.

Many Turtle Doves spend the winter around the Senegal River and surrounding area, which we can see reflected in Jos’ movements. The Senegal River basin spans 4 countries (Guinea, Mali, Mauritania and Senegal) and, for the large part, has a sub-Saharan desert climate. Peanut, millet and sorghum make up a large proportion of the agriculture here, while acacia grows along the river banks, and on drier slopes. Furthermore, irrigated rice paddies in the Senegal River Valley result in spilt rice grains after the harvest – an important food source for Turtle Doves during drought. It’s little wonder this area is popular with overwintering Turtle Doves.

If all goes well, Jos will spend Christmas 2020 in this same area.

Join us in following Jos via our online map:

Photo: Daniel Triveau, Flickr

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Having spent the breeding season on Walcheren in the Netherlands, European Turtle Dove Jos has crossed Belgium and France, and is now taking a pit stop just south of Valladolid, Spain. This region's Turtle Dove hunting season ended yesterday, on the 20th September 2020.

His nail-biting journey will lead him south, across the Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara, to the Sahel belt of Africa (map from English Turtle Dove 'Titan'). Jos will face obstacles such as hunting season, poor weather, habitat loss in rest areas, and sheer exhaustion.

Jos is the first Turtle Dove in the Netherlands to be equipped with a satellite transmitter, allowing us to follow his progress on this incredible journey. It will give us insight into his migration route, and where and when he stops for breaks, ultimately supporting us as we strive to protect his species.

Join us! Follow Jos’ journey on:

This research is in partnership with BirdLife Netherlands and SOVON, with financial support from BirdLife International, BirdLife Netherlands and Het Zeeuwse Landschap.

For more information about our research, visit

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Although some European Turtle Doves have already left their breeding grounds, the rest are still fattening themselves up for their long journey to Africa. This fattening-up period is essential if they hope to survive their migration, and harvested grain and seed fields are some of the best places they forage.

Here in the Netherlands, Jos and Bram are still looking for food. We followed Bram's GPS tag to a field where poppyseed was grown this year. While we didn't spot Bram, there were 5 other Turtle Doves foraging here - not something you see every day. What's more, these doves were a mix young and adult birds.

What makes this field so attractive? After harvesting the poppies, the stubble has been left. This means that any seed that escaped harvest is simply lying on the ground and available to the birds. For Turtle Doves, who are exclusively seed eaters, this is a fantastic source of energy. Bram has visited this field for several hours, every day since mid-August. Poppyseed must be particularly tasty: Henk, one of our doves in 2019, also spent a great deal of time on the only poppyseed field available in the area!

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