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National workshop to address plight of the Curlew

25th October 2016

BirdWatch Ireland, University College Dublin and Mary Colwell are organising a one-day workshop for experts and local community representatives to formulate ways to halt the extinction of the Curlew, a greatly loved Irish bird, on 4th November at the New Forest Golf Club in Co Westmeath.

Curlew in flight (Photo: Colum Clarke)
Curlew in flight
(Photo: Colum Clarke)

In the 1980s there were around 5,000 breeding pairs in the Republic of Ireland, but today there are fewer than 150, according to a national survey commissioned by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) in 2015 and 2016.

Curlews are quintessential breeding birds of rural areas, associated with bogs and upland pastures.  With their large, down-curved bill and evocative bubbling call, they are instantly recognizable.

Large numbers of Curlews arrive on our shores in the late summer to feed on coastal mudflats and inland lakes, leading to the mistaken conclusion that they are  still plentiful in Ireland.  However, most of these birds leave again, and by spring just a small and dwindling population of native Irish breeding birds remains.

Curlew in bogland breeding habitat (Photo: Derek Belsey & Cliff Reddick)
Curlew in bogland breeding habitat
(Photo: Derek Belsey & Cliff Reddick)

Most of the remaining pairs nest on bogs, with a smaller proportion nesting on farmland.   Key areas in the country include the Stacks in north Kerry, Lough Corrib and the bogs of the midlands, with smaller populations in Donegal, Monaghan, parts of south Leitrim and Lough Ree.  Loss of peatland habitats and continued peat extraction are likely to be key causes of the decline, as well agricultural intensification, drainage and afforestation.  Predation by foxes is also likely to be a key factor.

The news of the huge losses amongst the Curlew population in Ireland has been greeted with much sadness,” said Dr Anita Donaghy, Senior Conservation Officer with BirdWatch Ireland.

Our aim is to bring together all the people concerned about Curlews in Ireland.  Urgent action is needed to save the Curlew and we hope that this workshop will help to find solutions to the many problems facing them,” said Mary Colwell.

The workshop is being supported by the National Parks & Wildlife Service and the Heritage Council.

Curlew in farmland habitat (Photo: Mike Brown)
Curlew in farmland habitat
(Photo: Mike Brown)

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