€30 million scheme to help breeding waders announced

October 11, 2023
AdvocacyBreeding wadersFarmland birds

BirdWatch Ireland welcomes yesterday’s announcement by Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD, that a new governmental scheme for the protection and conservation of breeding waders is to be established as part of a wider package of supports for climate and nature. €30 million has been set aside for the Breeding Wader EIP (European Innovation Partnership). €22.5 million is to be invested by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, with the remaining €7.5 million coming from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Waders are amongst the most threatened of all breeding birds in Ireland, with six of the eight regularly occurring species on the Red List of Birds of Conservation Concern in Ireland. The six species in question are Curlew, Lapwing, Dunlin, Golden Plover, Redshank and Snipe. Five of these species have declined by at least 50% in the last forty years. Curlew and Lapwing have each declined by over 90% in the last twenty years and are considered to be approaching globally threatened status by BirdLife International.

Curlew in breeding habitat

Loss of breeding habitat through agricultural intensification, draining of peatlands and afforestation have all contributed to these declines, but widespread predation of nests and chicks by generalist predators such as foxes and crows have also severely impacted remaining populations in recent years.

BirdWatch Ireland had previously identified that a scheme underpinned by at least €30 million was required to support farmers to undertake measures to save Ireland’s breeding waders from extinction. We are pleased that the Irish Government has taken heed.

The Government has been implementing measures aimed at protecting and restoring populations, for example, through the Acres Co-operation scheme and the Curlew Conservation Programmes. However, more ambitious plans are required if these iconic birds are to be saved from extinction.

Linda Lennon, BirdWatch Ireland’s CEO, said, “The new measures which have just been announced could make a significant difference to saving breeding waders, but must be targeted and implemented correctly. Farmers have long wanted to act for nature but have lacked the funding to enable them to do so. This new funding stream must enable farmers to put in place habitat management measures to protect breeding waders on their land.

“Predator control measures, including the installation of specialised fencing to exclude predators, must also be part of the solution. The effectiveness of such fencing has already been proven beyond doubt by projects implemented by BirdWatch Ireland and others and is crucial to efforts to save our breeding waders.”

Golden Plover in breeding plumage