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 2016

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 massively in the past 20 years 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 again appealing for sightings of breeding Curlew in 2016 as part of an NPWS funded Survey, running for the second year,  to help determine the number of breeding pairs in Ireland and identify important breeding site.

Curlew nest in damp, rushy pastures and on open mooreland. 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. You can enter your Curlew sightings quickly and easily via SurveyMonkey.

If you would like more details on the Breeding Curlew Survey and how you can help further, please contact us here.

The 2016 Breeding Curlew Survey is commissioned and funded by the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht.

Curlew in Crisis Workshop, 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. The event will take place on 4th November at the New Forest Golf Club in Co. Westmeath. See the agenda below or see here for further details.

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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