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BirdWatch battles to save the Curlew

Threats from predators and the destruction of habitats has seen a rapid decline in numbers for the curlew. With EU support, BirdWatch has been fighting to save this rare species.

The curlew

The distinctive cry of the Curlew is one of the most evocative sounds of the marshes and boglands in summer, but it could soon become a distant memory for Irish people.

That’s because the largest European wading bird, with its distinctive down-curved bill and long legs, is in real danger of vanishing from our shores.

Over the last 50 years, the loss of a suitable breeding habitat has seen the Curlew suffer widespread declines across Europe, but nowhere has this been more severe than in Ireland.

The threat is so stark, the Curlew is now an official conservation priority and is red listed in the Irish Government’s ‘Birds of Conservation Concern’.

Bird experts estimate there has been a 97 percent decline in numbers since the 1980s and the race is on to protect the species before it’s too late.

BirdWatch Ireland has partnered with the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association, the Irish Grey Partridge Conservation Trust and Teagasc in an EU project that is making a difference in known breeding sites in Lough Corrib, Co Galway and the south Leitrim bogs area.

The Irish Breeding Curlew Agricultural European Innovation Partnership (EIP-AGRI) project, funded by the EU and the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, is using pioneering measures to improve breeding outcomes on both farmland and bogs.

The decline of curlew has been so severe that there are now only 135 breeding pairs left.

“The declines have largely been driven by loss of habitat and increased predation, and currently breeding success is below sustainable levels,” says Kathryn Finney, project manager of the Irish Breeding Curlew EIP.

Working closely with key stakeholders and with the farming community, the Curlew EIP will be setting up agri-environmental schemes designed to restore habitats and protect nests from predators.

“It is vitally important that we develop appropriate habitat and regional specific solutions to the factors affecting breeding Curlew in Ireland,” says Finney.

“The EIP programme has provided an important mechanism through which we can do this.”

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