Turtle Doves breed widely in Europe, north to southern Denmark, the Baltic States and north-central Russia, also across Asia to north-central China and south to the Mediterranean region, northwest Africa and Arabia. Virtually all of the Afro-Eurasian population winters in the dry savannahs of sub-Saharan Africa. Great Britain is on the northwestern fringe of the breeding range; the British population is believed to winter in West Africa though ringing recoveries are few.
    In the 19th century Turtle Doves were abundant in summer in southrn Britain though uncommon further north. This situation continued until well into the 20th century - the 1968-72 Breeding Atlas  estimated the population at 125,000 pairs. But thereafter the population began to decline. By the time of the 1988-91 Breeding Atlas the figure was down to 75,000 pairs and a report in 2005 estimated the British population to have been 30,000 pairs in 2001, consistent with a 73% decline since 1980 across the whole of Europe, as reported in Bird Atlas 2007-11.
    In Wiltshire the species was described as extremely abundant in the mid-19th century, with flocks of over a hundred seen feeding in stubble fields. In line with the national picture, this situation continued until the 1970s when a steady decline began. In the 1980s and 1990s, though precise figures were not recorded, annual reports in Hobby regularly referred to falling numbers. Birds of Wiltshire recorded them still occurring in 142 tetrads, with breeding confirmed or probable in 43, whereas WTA2 recorded them in only 43 tetrads, with confirmed/probable breeding in only 13. The assumed causes of the decline are complex and include the effects of earlier springs and changes in agricultural practices, plus climatic changes in their wintering areas and large scale shooting on their migration routes across Europe.

The following references are used throughout these species accounts, in the abbreviated form given in quotation marks:
1968-72 Breeding Atlas” – Sharrack, J.T.R. 1976:  The Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. Poyser
“1981-84 Winter Atlas” – Lack, P.C. 1986:  The Atlas of Wintering Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. Poyser
1988-91 Breeding Atlas” – Gibbons, D.W., Reid, J.B. & Chapman, R.A. 1993: The New Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland 1988-91. T. & A. Poyser
Birds of Wiltshire” – Ferguson-Lees, I.J. et al. 2007 : Birds of Wiltshire, published by the tetrad atlas group of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society after mapping fieldwork 1995-2000. Wiltshire Ornithological Society.
Bird Atlas 2007-2011” – Balmer, D.E., Gillings, S., Caffrey, B.J., Swann, R.L., Downie, I.S. and Fuller, R.J. 2013: Bird Atlas 2007-2011: the Breeding and Wintering Birds of Britain and Ireland
“WTA2” – ("Wiltshire Tetrad Atlas 2 ") the present electronic publication, bringing together the Wiltshire data from “Birds of Wiltshire” and “Bird Atlas 2007-11”, together with data from further fieldwork carried out in 2011 and 2012.
"Hobby" - the annual bird report of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society.