While Ireland is home to thousands of Curlew each winter, particularly along our coasts where migrant birds come to escape colder weather in Scotland or Scandinavia, our national breeding population had declined to 122 pairs in 2016 – a decline of 97% since the 1980s. The Curlew Task Force was established in 2016 by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (DCHG) to reverse the decline of the Curlew as a breeding species in Ireland. The task force brings experts and decision makers from DCHG and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to build upon previous cooperation and undertake further positive actions for the Curlew.
The Curlew is one of Ireland’s most distinctive birds, with long legs and a long, curved bill. It is renowned for its plaintive, bubbling call and can be found during the spring and summer in High Nature Value farmland areas and bogs. It is a red-listed species under the Birds of Conservation Concern in Ireland and is Ireland’s only species on the IUCN red list of endangered species.
The National Parks & Wildlife Service commissioned a national survey of breeding Curlew in 2015 and 2016, with input from NPWS staff, BirdWatch Ireland and the general public among others. The survey shows how serious a situation our own native Irish Curlew are in, with just 122 breeding pairs recorded. This represents a 97% decrease since the 1980s. An estimated 78% range contraction has also occurred. The results of that survey are very useful towards informing conservation effort; to act as a baseline, to identify requirements and to target positive action.
The locations of breeding Curlew territories have been shared by NPWS with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, along with advice in terms of the ecological requirements of Curlew. This is enabling targeted supports to farmers with Curlew in their locality, to manage habitats for Curlew.