Photo: Curlew in flight (Andy Parnell)

Curlew in flight (Andy Parnell)


Click here to hear the evocative breeding calls of the Curlew, once a common sound in the Irish countryside but now rarely heard (MP3: 771KB)

Recording courtesy of Patrik Åberg (made on 25th May 2009 in Sweden)



If you are fortunate enough to find a breeding pair of Curlews, please fill in our online questionaire at

If you prefer, you can call 07491-29905 to report your sightings instead.


For information on the NPWS Curlew Task Force, click here


The Cry of the Curlew

Curlew on nest with chick (Derek Belsey & Cliff Reddick)
We still need your help for the 2018 breeding season

The haunting cry of the Curlew is one of the most evocative and memorable sounds of the marshes and uplands in summer. However, we need to act now to ensure it doesn’t become a mere memory.

Sadly, Curlews, along with other breeding waders, have almost disappeared from our countryside. These iconic birds have been suffering severe declines for many years. We estimate that around 80% of the Curlew breeding population has been lost since the 1970s alone.  A national survey funded by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), was undertaken by BirdWatch Ireland and others, and indicated that just around 150 breeding pairs remain.   They are still a regular sight along our coasts in winter, when migrant birds from northern Europe come here to take advantage of our relatively mild winters, feeding in our estuaries and wetlands in large numbers.  Howeever, it is our resident breeding population that is now in danger of extinction.

Curlews can nest in a range of habitats in Ireland, from wet grasslands such as the River Shannon Callows to marginal hill land. They favour damp pastures grazed lightly by cattle, with a scattering of rush tussocks for nesting in and some wet areas to provide insects for their chicks to feed on. Widespread loss of suitable breeding habitat over the last 50 years has been the main driver of the decline, changes such as land drainage, more intensrive management of grassland, the destruction of peat bogs, afforestation and the abandonment of some lands, leading to encroachment by scrub, gorse and dense rushes.  As well as directly leading to delcines, these changes have been accompanied by increases in predators such as foxes and crows, which take the nests and chicks, so exacerbating the losses. 

Curlew and other waders are now among our most threatened breeding birds. WITH YOUR HELP, BirdWatch Ireland can continue it's important work to bring these birds back from the verge of extinction. Ongoing programmes include:-

  • Contributing to research programmes into the factors influencing their survival and distribution.
  • Projects to restore their unique habitats, such as re-wetting upland areas, clearing them of gorse and scrub, and improving grazing management to benefit their breeding.
  • Advocate legislation to better protect Curlews year round.


If you want to help BirdWatch Ireland's ongoing work for Curlew, you can make a donation to the Curlew Appeal by telephoning us directly on 01-2819878 or by emailing us at



 Curlew chicks in damp grassland (Hugh Insley)
Curlew chicks in damp grassland

Curlew on nest in upland pasture (Derek Belsey & Cliff Reddick)
Curlew on nest in upland pasture

Altas distribution

Map of breeding Curlew distribution, 2007-2011 Bird Atlas (© BTO)


The Co-opertion Accross Borders for Biodiversity Project (CABB) is a cross border initiative between six partners - RSPB Northern Ireland, RSPB Scotland, BirdWatch Ireland, Butterfly Conservation, Northern Ireland Water and Moors for the Future. One of the aims is to help conserve populations of breeding waders, including Curlew, through direct management of habitats, advisory work with farmers and advocacy.  Exchange of knowledge and best practice across the three regions is also an important element.

CABB is funded by the European Union's INTERREG VA Programme, with match funding from the Government of Ireland and the Northern Ireland Executive, as well as Mines Restoration Ltd.

For more information about CABB, please see  contact,

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