With their long downcurved bills and unique call, curlews are among the most recognisable of all wading birds. However, these large beautiful birds are also among the most threatened migratory birds in existence.
As Europe’s largest and most distinctive wading bird, the curlew has been added to the ‘red list’ of threatened UK birds with numbers falling 64 per cent from 1970 to 2014. The UK is currently home to over a quarter of the global breeding population of curlews, but habitat loss and predation means their chicks are not surviving.
To be launched today, World Curlew Day is a grassroots initiative supported by environmental organisations which aims to raise awareness about the plight of curlews and to encourage activities to help them.
The grouse shooting community undertakes year-round conservation efforts alongside careful predator control which provides excellent conditions for thriving curlew populations and significantly higher than average fledging rates for their chicks.Scientific research has shown where predator control is in place on grouse moors, birds such as curlew and lapwing are 3.5 times more likely to fledge their chicks.
Elsewhere, thanks to research done by Shropshire Hills and Welsh Marches Curlew Recovery Project, and with the support of local farmers and landowners, over 30 curlew nests in good habitat have been closely monitored over the last two years with cameras and heat sensitive buttons. Sadly, with no gamekeepers to protect them, none of the chicks have survived to fledge successfully with most of the nests being predated at egg stage, mainly by foxes.
Gamekeepers on grouse moors across the north of England carefully implement effective predator control to keep foxes, carrion crows and other predators in check in the spring, thereby granting the curlew and all ground nesting birds a much better chance of survival.