top of page

Turtle Doves captive breeding and release project


Soon following the announcement of the Moratorium, the FKNK finally embarked on its above captioned Project. Due to several spokes-in-the-wheels from a few  sources, and not withstanding having been revamped in eight versions, this Project had been shelved for a good number of years (Lino Farrugia pers.comm.).


The main objective of the Project has organised a pool of locals who captive-breed turtle doves on a relatively large scale, who then sell the birds’ stock offspring to the FKNK for eventual release into the wild. The species is known to reproduce at a steady rate in captivity and large numbers in offspring can thus be obtained. This Project will also serve as a means to perform ex-situ conservation of these birds by releasing captive bred specimen into the wild.


The breeders have been informed with regards any hazard to the captive bred birds from vermin and other predators and how this should be addressed through the use of preventive measures. Since captive bred birds suffer from high anxiety levels especially during the breeding period, disturbances from third parties is being kept to a minimum.


An objective of paramount importance is that following the IUCN’s reclassification of the Turtle Dove to “vulnerable”, this Project will be one of Malta’s concrete evidence’ contribution towards the species conservation status in the wild. Therefore, also,the Project, especially the release aspect, will be implemented in strict adherence with the           IUCN’s           relative                      Guidelines        

(available at:


Moreover, it has to  be  said, that the Notes from a NADEG Workshop held between the 16 and 18 January 2017 in Kecskemet, Hungary alsostate:

“Allowing turtle-doves to be bred in captivity and used to restock the population was raised as a concern. We should focus on habitat management first and foremost, and this should be kept as a last resort. Actions should be focused on the wild populations, otherwise reintroduction gives governments an easy way out (in bold by author). Anything that takes place if the last resort is needed, should follow the IUCNGuidelines.”

Since the birds are being bought from different breeders, this ensures genetic diversity. The Project Manager appointed by the FKNK Council, ensures that the fledging that will be released is healthy and acclimatised, and the birds are tagged with special split/close rings and released into the wild. The released birds will augment the wild migrating population. The knowledge that will be acquired from this Project can be employed in future introductions in the wild even of other bird species. Captive-breeding and release practical knowledge will be enhanced that can be employed in future introductions in the local natural environment. A local pool of experts in captive breeding and release will be established at the end of the Project who in turn can see to the continuation of similar Projects of conservation.


“Captive breeding is normally used to provide individuals which can then be released into the wild to either restore a population in part of the species’ former range, or to augment an existing population. Release techniques vary considerably, from ‘hard releases’ involving the simple release of individuals into the wild to ‘soft releases’ which involve a variety of adaptation and acclimatisation techniques before release or post-release feeding and care.” ( Providing evidence to support decisions about nature conservation, n.d.).


Studies describing the overall effects of release projects have been undertaken by Kuyt (1996); Ellis et al. (2000); Nesbitt and Carpenter, (1993); Urbanek et al. (2010); and Zwank & Wilson (1987).

According to Davies (1998) global research revealed that releases of migratory species, that would have been captive-bred, are only likely to meet with success if the released birds meet-up with wild migratingbirds.

“Such experiments/projects, that is, the release of captive-bred individuals into the wild to augment wild populations of similar bird species, have already been undertaken, and one might add with a good degree of success (Jones, et al. 1992).”

Source: FKNK, 2016:15-19


The situation following the release of 2018 is detailed in the FKNK Press Release of May 2018 (Annex II follows).

With the financial assistance of the Wild Birds Conservation Fund, for 2019 the FKNK will set-up its own main breeding aviary.  This is necessary so that the project’s main objective, which is for the FKNK to be in possession of thousands of birds which it can release, is achievable within the next few years.

bottom of page