RSPB/DEFRA Turtle Dove Habitat Auction

Welcome to this opportunity for funding and support to create Turtle Dove habitat on farmland in East Anglia. The project is being delivered across four trial zones, with two each in Norfolk and Suffolk focused on areas with high potential for supporting breeding turtle doves.

This is a Defra ELMS (Environmental Land Management Scheme) Trial, managed by the RSPB and hosted on the EnTrade platform. Through this project we aim to support you in planning habitat measures which you can then bid your price for providing. Full details on the eligible scheme area, habitat requirements and bidding process are presented herein. Thank you for your interest in the scheme.

Auction live dates

15th February – 2nd March 2021 in the Hadleigh,Dedham Vale and Upper Wensum areas.
7th – 22nd June 2021 in the Stonham Aspell, Gipping Valley and North West Norfolk areas.

Check the maps below to confirm your land is within one of the four target areas, and learn more about the habitat requirements you can create to support turtle doves. If your land is close to the scheme boundary – please contact an adviser to discuss eligibility.

Hadleigh and Dedham Vale
Stonham Aspell and Gipping Valley
North West Norfolk
Upper Wensum

Habitat requirements

To ensure turtle dove breeding success, three elements are required:

Nesting Habitat

Turtle Doves nest in dense, thorny growth such as extensive tall scrub, thick overgrown hedgerows (at least 4m wide and 3m high), or else along dense woodland edges.

Where? Such habitat must already exist within 1km (ideally 300m) of proposed food plots.

Your Conservation Adviser can assist you in identifying sites.

Photo © John Myers (cc-by-sa/2.0)


The lack of sufficient food sources (traditionally, arable weed seeds) being available between April and September is a key reason for turtle dove decline. This scheme will pay for sowing a tailored seed mix, or else allowing arable weeds to grow from the seedbank, to create feeding areas along field margins or in specific feeding plots.

Where? Less productive unshaded field margins or blocks can be used, no minimum size, though 0.25 ha (eg 6m x 400m) to 1.15ha is optimal for each plot.

The Project target is to have a total of 2-4 ha of food plots per sq km dispersed across the landscape, so on larger holdings you might be able to provide multiple plots to achieve this density.

Photo © Bob Embleton (cc-by-sa/2.0)


Breeding doves need a source of accessible water from April to September, such as a pond or stream with a gently sloping side.

Where? Water must be within 1km (ideally 300m) of nesting, and within 1.5km of feed plots. If no water exists, your bid can include funding to dig or improve a pond. Where ground conditions are unsuitable for ponds, another artificial source of clean water might be possible, e.g. a plumed in trough fitted with a floating guard.

Photo © Simon Carey (cc-by-sa/2.0)

RSPB's expert advisers are on hand to support you in understanding the options we are looking for and tailoring them to your land - please get in contact with any questions or queries. Kerry Skelhorn (Conservation Adviser) on 07842 420987 or email:, or Jake Zarins (Project Manager) on 07739 460005 or

A good starting point is to identify areas of suitable nesting habitat on your farm or else on neighbouring land within a kilometre of proposed feed plots. Scrub, hedges or woodland edge must meet minimum standards of density and extent (min area 1250 m2, e.g. a 312m run of 4m wide hedge) . Given the time frame of this project, such habitat would already need to exist, and this could prove to be a deciding factor on whether you can bid. If in doubt your adviser can assist.

Next identify any existing water sources close to scrub features, and if none are suitable then think how one could be provided as part of the project. Finally, consider where you could create seed-rich feeding plots sufficiently close to the nesting habitat and water.

The generation of feeding plots is the key focus of the auction and the activity for which most funding is available. The optimum target is 2-4ha feeding habitat per km2 across the landscape with the minimum viable proportion being 1ha per km2 (individual or in cluster). As a rule, more smaller patches are better than fewer, larger patches.

Don’t worry if you are not able to provide all habitat requirements on your own holding, so long as missing elements are present in the vicinity - your bid will be scored on provision across the landscape, not just within your farm.

The Test and Trials project is compatible with Countryside Stewardship and other relevant land management schemes, although it is important to note that you cannot include in your bid measures that have already been funded through other Schemes.

For more information on the Project or to book a visit by our Conservation Adviser, please contact Jake Zarins (Project Manager) on 07739 460005 or email:

The Reverse Auction

As you may be aware, the new Environment Land Management Scheme (ELMS) that Defra is designing seeks to award 'public money for public goods' and is exploring mechanisms to do this through a number of different Tests and Trials. One such option is through auctions - using markets to set the price of provision rather than prescribed flat rates.

A reverse auction is the opposite of a traditional auction where many bidders compete to buy an item at an increasing price. In a reverse auction bidders enter their best price for providing the good or service, and in this particular instance bids will be analysed based on which provide the best quality habitat at the most competitive price – not just the lowest bid.

EnTrade is experienced in running reverse auctions and the tool is proven in protecting water environments from excess nutrients.

Once you have decided on habitat provision that is suitable for your farm you will be able to bid for funding on this platform. A guidance video will follow shortly to help you through the process. We will be running this scheme as a sealed bid reverse auction. You can edit or delete your bid at anytime until the auction closes. Whilst price is a factor, it is equally important that sufficient quantity and proximity of food, water and nesting habitat are available. Once sealed bids are submitted, they will be reviewed to determine the combination of bids that provide the optimal combination of quality, geographical spread and value.

We hope you find the bidding process self-explanatory but if when applying you need any technical help please contact EnTrade for assistance (not your RSPB adviser)

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