They have long been a staple of a popular Christmas song. But the turtle dove and the partridge face crisis this winter following a dramatic fall in numbers which could put the turtle dove in danger of extinction.
Over a five-year period, Britain has lost six out of 10 turtle doves, with just 14,000 pairs now left in Britain.
The RSPB has estimated that by the middle of the next decade fewer than 1000 pairs may remain, putting the bird in danger of extinction.
The grey partridge population is estimated to have fallen by 30 per cent in the same five year period to 2010. There are now around 43,000 pairs.
RSPB scientist Dr Mark Eaton described the drastic decline in bird numbers as an “unsustainable wildlife disaster”.
He said: “The turtle dove is in a great degree of danger – if this trend were to continue we could be down to fewer than 1000 pairs by the middle of the next decade, with complete extinction a real possibility.
“Losing six out of ten of our turtle doves and three out of ten grey partridge in five years is nothing short of an unsustainable wildlife disaster.”
Turtle doves, which have often been used as emblems of love and devotion in literature, were once widespread in southern Britain but numbers have declined by more than 90 per cent since the 1970s.