Species Focus: Curlew


Curlew chicks in damp grassland


Curlew on nest in upland pasture

Funded by
the National Parks and Wildlife Service, of the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht


Breeding Curlew Survey

The Curlew (Numenius arquata) is one of the most iconic birds of the rural Irish landscape. Its charismatic call (listen via links on the right), large greyish-brown body and long, down-curved bill make the Curlew an easily identifiable bird. Unfortunately, breeding Curlew populations in Ireland have declined by over 90% in the past 40 years, mostly as a result of habitat loss, changes in land use and a host of other factors. As a result of this decline, Curlew are currently Red-listed in Ireland and represent one of countries highest conservation priorities.

It is worth noting that while large numbers of Curlew are present during the Irish winter, the majority of these birds do not breed in Ireland. These winter visitors come from the UK, Scandinavia and continental Europe to take advantage of our mild winter weather and return to their overseas breeding grounds come spring.

BirdWatch Ireland is appealing for sightings of breeding Curlew, to help determine the number of breeding pairs in Ireland and identify important breeding sites.

Curlew nest in damp, rushy pastures and on open moorland. Using their long, down-curved bills they probe for food in soft, wet areas along ditches or shallow pools where their chicks can easily find insects to eat. When disturbed near a nest site, Curlew will remain in the area and fly (typically in circles) above the 'intruder' while giving loud alarm calls. 

Whether you see Curlew in suitable nesting habitat or observe obvious signs of breeding, we would like to hear from you.

Report your 2018 Curlew sightings to via our online survey,

Curlew in Crisis Workshop

BirdWatch Ireland, University College Dublin and Mary Colwell organised a one-day workshop for experts and local community representatives to formulate ways to halt the extinction of the Curlew. The event took place on 4th November at the New Forest Golf Club in Co. Westmeath. Following on from the workshop, the then Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs set up the Curlew Task Force,

Curlew Calls

Listen to the alarm call given when parents have young here (Piotr Szcypinski, XC177329)

Listen to the flight call here (Marrku Ruuskanen, XC237203)

Displaying Curlew

Click the image below to see a video showing displaying and calling curlew, signs indicative of breeding.



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