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 firstname.lastname@example.org