The Curlew is one of our most rapidly declining breeding bird species showing a 46% decline across the UK from 1994-2010 with this figure exceeding 50% in Wales and Scotland.
The UK holds 28% of the European population and in response to these declines, and those seen elsewhere in Europe, the species has recently been listed as globally near-threatened, one of the few British species on this list. The wintering population in the UK originates largely from Scandinavia, but also includes a significant proportion of breeding birds, and has declined by 20% in the last 15 years.
There is an extremely urgent need to identify the causes of these declines as a necessary first step to introducing potential conservation interventions.
Possible reasons for these declines include:
- Increases in generalist predators reducing breeding success
- Afforestation of marginal hill land
- Changes in farming practice reducing habitat quality
- Climate change
Britain’s estuaries support internationally important communities of wading birds due to our mild climate and key position on the East Atlantic flyway. However, our estuarine ecosystems are under ever increasing pressure from human activities, such as development and agricultural intensification.
The urgent work you could help to fund
- Using BTO Bird Atlas data to investigate patterns of extinction and colonisation - this will help us understand which factors are most important
- Predicting patterns of Curlew abundance using Bird Atlas and Breeding Bird Survey data in areas of the UK where we don't have adequate information currently - to give a better picture of Curlew across the country
- Studying Curlew patterns across Europe - by looking at areas with healthier Curlew populations, this can indicate potential conservation actions that could help in the UK
- Investigating home range and habitat use of breeding Curlew using remote tracking - to understand why breeding Curlew are generally failing to benefit from habitat management undertaken as part of agri-environment schemes
- Analysing long-term ringing data to better determine annual survival rates - to expand the currently limited knowledge of survival rates in specific areas of the country
- Reviewing patterns of winter distribution of Curlew - to help us understand how wintering Curlew use estuarine and farmland habitats both inside and outside protected areas, across the UK
- Launching a detailed study of Curlew habit at use in winter using GPS tagging - this will help us to understand how birds move around their landscape, in order to minimise threats to the habitats they use and to understand the likely impacts of development, disturbance, and other pressures that might affect their survival
Download the Curlew Appeal brochure for more information (PDF, 868.69 KB).
This work will help guide conservation at both local and national levels by informing management plans for protected sites and the approach of agri-environment schemes.
You can read about some of the work carried out so far in two recent BTO News articles about the first year of the Curlew research project (PDF, 294.23 KB) and GPS tracking and protected area and habitat usage (PDF, 491.73 KB) but there is still plenty more to do.