Curlew 06 (BC).jpg



Numenius arquata


Calloo, Courlie, Marsh Hen

Numbers and range have declined substantially in recent decades. It is likely that increased afforestation and agricultural improvement are responsible for these declines.


Status: Winter visitor to wetlands throughout Ireland, as well as breeding in small numbers in floodplains and boglands.

Conservation Concern: Red-listed in Ireland due to its small and declining breeding population. The European population is experiencing similar problems and has been evaluated as Declining.

Identification: The largest wader - very distinctive with long legs, bulky body, long neck and long decurved bill. Fairly uniform greyish brown, with bold dark streaking all over. Only likely confusion species is the smaller Whimbrel, which occurs in spring and autumn.

Similar Species: Whimbrel

Call: Unmistakable ascending "cur..lee, cur..lee" whistle, or sometimes "cew, cew, cew". Song in breeding season a long, rapid bubbling repetition of a single note.

Diet: They feed mostly on invertebrates, particularly ragworms, crabs and molluscs. They are usually well dispersed across the estuary while feeding, but roost communally, usually along salt marshes and sand banks.

Breeding: Nests on the ground in rough pastures, meadows and heather. Not a common breeder, but found in most parts of the country.

Wintering: Winters in a wide range of wetland habitats (coastal and inland) and other good feeding areas including damp fields. The Irish breeding population is supplemented by Scottish and Scandinavian breeders in winter.

Where to see: Shannon & Fergus Estuary in County Clare, Cork Harbour in County Cork, Lough Foyle in County Londonderry, Lough Swilly in County Donegal, Strangford Lough in County Down and the Wexford Harbour & Slobs in County Wexford support between 1,500 and 2,500 birds.

Monitored by: Irish Wetland Bird Survey.

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