World Curlew Day: celebrating one of Ireland’s most precious birds

April 21, 2022
CurlewCurlew EIPSpecies Conservation and Land Management

by Kathryn Finney
Project Manager, Irish Breeding Curlew EIP

Today, 21st April, is World Curlew Day. What better way to celebrate than to be out in the field watching these magnificent waders perform their territorial display flights and listening to their bubbling call? For me, this always signals the end of winter and the beginning of summer.

Sadly, we are in real danger of losing this evocative and beautiful bird as a breeding species in Ireland. Only around 135 pairs survive, down from approximately 8,000 a mere 30 years ago. Thankfully there are a number of projects currently working to ensure breeding Curlews do not become extinct. Along with a dedicated team I am lucky enough to be working on one of them – the Curlew EIP, funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine through the European Innovation Programme.

Together with farmers in the project area, the Curlew EIP is designing and trialling agri-environmental schemes to tackle the main factors in the birds’ decline; namely, poor-quality breeding habitat and predation. These measures will be suitable for roll-out nationally to all breeding Curlew areas as part of Ireland’s next CAP programme.

Curlew in flight

“A lot of important work has been done in these EIP groups with much success, for example in restoring habitats and biodiversity enhancements. May of the lessons from these EIP’s are being incorporated into our CAP schemes now that these have been successfully piloted on the ground,” said Minister of State for Land Use and Biodiversity, Pippa Hackett TD, announcing further extension to the Curlew EIP in 2022.

As this year’s breeding season kicks off, Curlew EIP staff are out surveying their breeding sites and monitoring populations. Farmers have signed up to management agreements and are already working to create suitable breeding habitat for nesting and chick rearing. Together with these dedicated farmers, our Curlew Keepers are working hard to keep the birds, their eggs and their chicks safe from predation, which is now a major factor in the species’ decline.

The tagging of Curlews is a vital part of efforts to save these highly threatened birds

This week, we are out satellite tagging adult Curlews. This exciting element of the project will not only help us locate and protect nests, but also to gather valuable information on Ireland’s breeding Curlews. The Curlew EIP is delighted to be collaborating with NPWS BioData, which is also satellite-tagging birds. Between both projects, we will gather data from right across the country and all of the habitats that Curlews breed on. Pooling data and working in co-operation will really help to inform future targeting of agri-environmental schemes and close knowledge gaps about Ireland’s breeding Curlews. It is a lovely example of how positive collaboration and cooperation can help to solve a biodiversity crisis and we are delighted to be part of it.

Fingers crossed that we catch our birds to satellite tag! And, of course, what better way to celebrate Curlews today than by playing a part in their conservation, whether as part of a conservation team, as a farmer providing safe suitable breeding habitat or as a member of the public supporting our efforts and advocating for the conservation of these very special and irreplaceable birds?

If you would like to support our work to save Ireland’s Curlews and other threatened birds and habitats, please donate what you can to the BirdWatch Ireland Species Recovery Appeal.