New partnership formed to save England’s threatened Curlews

02 Mar 2021 | No. 2021-06

The Curlew Recovery Partnership is a new, exciting and transformative initiative, bringing together all those with an interest in Curlew conservation, including land managers, farmers, gamekeepers, policymakers and researchers. They are joining forces to help secure the future of one of England’s most iconic and threatened species, the Eurasian Curlew.

Urgent action is needed. The Curlew is one of the most pressing bird conservation priorities in the UK, where nearly half the breeding population has been lost over the last 25 years and where range contraction has seen Curlews disappear from many traditional sites.
The partnership is the outcome of Curlew Recovery Summits hosted by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales on Dartmoor in March 2018 and at Highgrove in February 2020. It will provide co-ordination and support to those engaged in Curlew conservation, while also providing benefits for other threatened species and habitats and helping people to connect with nature:
His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales said “The hauntingly evocative cry of the Curlew is now all too seldom heard. This most wonderful bird needs urgent support and I am delighted that following meetings on Dartmoor in March 2018 and at Highgrove in February 2020, the England Curlew Recovery Partnership has been formed to bring together all those who can help provide such support and, indeed, promote this crucial cause to the public; many of whom, I am sure, are unaware of quite how special the Curlew is and the part that they can play in helping to save it for the benefit of current and future generations.”
The Partnership has recently appointed Mary Colwell as Chair and Prof Russell Wynn as Manager. Supported by a Steering Group, they will drive the Partnership forward, drawing upon the Partnership’s extensive combined experience of Curlew conservation, research and public engagement.

In Mary’s words: “The disappearance of curlews from across the open landscapes of England is deeply sad and a very tangible reminder of the crisis facing our wildlife. The Curlew Recovery Partnership is determined to work together to find solutions to reverse its decline and to help transform our relationship with nature. It is an honour to be part of this initiative.”
The Partnership’s Steering Group comprises nine organisations: Bolton Castle Estate, British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), Curlew Action, Curlew Country, Duchy of Cornwall, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), Natural England, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), and Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT).
The Partnership has been set up with financial support from Defra and will explore opportunities to embed Curlew recovery within Defra’s new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) and the Nature Recovery Network.

Natural England Chair, Tony Juniper said: “Sadly, Eurasian Curlew is very scarce in many parts of England - if this decline continues there is a significant risk that future generations will not be able to enjoy these wonderful birds. We look forward to working as part of the Partnership’s Steering Group, which brings together those who are equally passionate about the recovery of these iconic birds. The partnership launched today is an example of the kind of positive collaboration that we know is needed if we are to reverse the declining fortunes of many of our wildlife species.”
The Partnership is now keen to engage with anyone interested in saving England’s Curlews, and will provide a conduit for information flow and future funding to support those working on the ground. To get involved, please email hello [at] or visit the website at

Contact Details

Prof. Russell Wynn
 (Curlew Recovery Partnership Manager)
Mobile: 07500 990808
Email: info [at]

Paul Stancliffe (BTO Media Manager)
Mobile: 07585 440910
Email: press [at] (subject: News%20release%20enquiry)

Dr Samantha Franks (BTO, Curlew Researcher)
Email: samantha.franks [at]

Images are available for use alongside this News Release. These can be downloaded from this link for which you will need to enter the password 'Curlew21'. alternatively, please contact images [at] quoting reference 2020-06

Notes for editors
1. About Curlews
At 68,000 breeding pairs, the UK currently holds approximately a quarter of the global Eurasian Curlew population. However, national monitoring data, coordinated by BTO, show that this population has been in long-term decline since the 1970s and has almost halved in the UK over the last 20 years.
Britain also supports some 125,000 wintering Curlew, numbers of which have declined by more than 25% in 25 years. Many of these birds breed in continental Europe. As a result of Europe-wide population declines, Curlew is listed as vulnerable to extinction in Europe, and globally, is considered near threatened.
2. About the Chair and Manager
Mary Colwell wrote Curlew Moon in 2018, instigated the first ever World Curlew Day in 2017 and is a seasoned campaigner for greater appreciation and understanding of wildlife, spearheading the campaign for a GCSE in Natural History. Her work to promote the plight of the Curlew won Mary the BTO’s Dilys Breese Award for Outstanding Science Communication in 2017 and the WWT Marsh Award in 2018.
Prof Russell Wynn has extensive field experience of Curlews in England and has worked in UK science and conservation for over 20 years, including former roles as Associate Director for Government, International and Public Engagement at the National Oceanography Centre and Chairman of the Seabird Group of UK and Ireland.
3. About the Steering Group organisations
Bolton Castle Estate is situated in mid-Wensleydale and supports a healthy population of breeding and overwintering Curlews. Over the last five years, the Estate has been actively engaged in a variety of conservation and monitoring projects, including several species of waders and raptors. As well as habitat management and predator control, Curlew work has included: canon-netting and colour-ringing; monitoring breeding success with surveys, cameras and thermologgers; managing an in-hand farm for the benefit of waders; and hosting the Bolton Castle Curlew Festival.
British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) is the UK's leading bird research charity. A growing membership and up to 60,000 volunteer birdwatchers contribute to BTO's surveys, collecting information that underpins conservation action in the UK. BTO maintains a staff of 100 at its offices in Thetford, Stirling, Bangor (Wales) and Belfast (Northern Ireland), who analyse and publicise the results of surveys and projects. BTO's work is funded by BTO supporters, government, trusts, industry and conservation organisations.
Curlew Action is dedicated to supporting the conservation of curlews by raising awareness of their plight, advocating for conservation effort, sharing information and best practice and through education about the natural world.
Curlew Country is a pioneering Curlew recovery initiative spanning the English and Welsh borders. Started in 2015, it enables natural nest and head-starting Curlew recovery success. Curlew Country raises all its own funds for fast conservation action on the ground and works in partnership with farmers, land managers and wider communities with the support of volunteers. Its work includes: Curlew Nest and Chick Monitoring and Protection, Public Engagement, Training, Advice and Arts Activities.
Duchy of Cornwall is a private estate, extending beyond the geographical boundaries of Cornwall – covering nearly 53,000 hectares of land across 21 counties, mostly in southwest England. It comprises arable and livestock farms, residential and commercial properties, as well as forests, rivers, quarries and coastline. Under the guidance of the current Duke of Cornwall, HRH The prince of Wales, it is the Duchy’s responsibility to manage this estate in a way that is sustainable, financially viable and of meaningful value to the local community.
The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) is proud to be at the forefront of conservation research. Key to our belief is that our findings can be put into practice in a real-life, working countryside wherever possible. In addition to research, giving practical advice has always been key to our work. We were founded in the 1930s to understand declines in grey partridges and, having spoken to those people managing land up and down the country, we set up our own demonstration shoot and started providing advice. That’s something we have done ever since. If we want our countryside to thrive – for wildlife, to preserve the wonderful, often rare, landscape, and produce the food our growing nation requires – those managing the land need to have the knowledge and the tools to make it work.
Natural England is the government’s advisor on the natural environment. Established in 2006, our work is focused on enhancing England’s wildlife and landscapes and maximising the benefits they bring to the public.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is the UK’s largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations.
The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) is a charity working to save wetlands globally and in the UK for wildlife, people and our planet. WWT runs ten reserves across the UK, managing 3000 hectares of the best wetland habitat in the UK, and providing inspirational experiences to encourage people to value wetlands and the amazing wildlife they support. WWT, together with partners, are involved in three significant conservation projects working to save the Eurasian curlew in the UK.  These are 1) Severn Vale Curlew Recovery: a project led by WWT which aims to work with farmers to restore the local curlew population, and in doing so identify how to best implement and support ‘curlew friendly farming’, thus creating a blueprint for wider curlew recovery; 2) Dartmoor Curlew Recovery: aims to restore the Dartmoor curlew population, which has almost disappeared. This is done by rearing chicks in captivity and then releasing them into new areas where farmers are creating curlew-friendly habitat; 3) Eastern England Curlew Nature Recovery Network aims to reintroduce curlews into areas of north Norfolk where there has been significant ‘curlew-friendly’ habitat restoration.

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