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27/07/2021

Search for Donegal's at-risk curlew continues

Public's help sought in conservation of red-list curlew

Search for Donegal's at-risk curlew continues

Search for Donegal's at-risk curlew continues

Donegal's Curlew Conservation Programme is seeking the public's help to preserve the species in the peninsula and throughout County Donegal.

The Curlew is currently a red-listed, of high conservation concern, species of Bird in Ireland. Red-list species are those that are 'Globally Threatened' according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) criteria; those whose population or range has declined rapidly in recent years; and those that have declined historically and not shown a substantial recent recovery.

Speaking to Donegal Live, Buncrana man Martin Moloney, who has been working on the Donegal Curlew Conservation Programme with the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) since 2017, said the NWPS team was trying to preserve our last remaining curlew.

Martin added: “When a member of the public sees Curlew in suitable nesting habitat or observes obvious signs of breeding, the Curlew Conservation Programme would like to hear from them on 0863514510.

“The Curlew (Numenius arquata) is one of the most iconic birds of the rural Irish landscape. Its charismatic call, large greyish-brown body and long, down-curved bill make it easily identifiable.

“Unfortunately, breeding Curlew populations in Ireland have declined by around 90% in the past 40 years, mostly as a result of habitat loss, changes in land use and a range of other factors. As a result of this decline, Curlew are currently Red-listed in Ireland and are also considered globally threatened, making them one of our country’s highest conservation priorities.

“It is worth noting that while large numbers of Curlew are present during the Irish winter, the majority of these birds do not breed in Ireland. These winter visitors come from Britain, Scandinavia and continental Europe to take advantage of our mild winter weather, feeding on coastal mudflats and wetlands. They return to their overseas breeding grounds come spring,” said Martin.

Curlew nest in damp, rushy pastures and on open moorland.

According to Martin, using their long, down-curved bills they probe for food in soft, wet areas along ditches or shallow pools, where their chicks can easily find insects to eat.

Martin said: “When disturbed near a nest site, Curlew will remain in the area and fly (typically in circles) above the 'intruder' while giving loud alarm calls.

“Between 2012 and 2014, Birdwatch Ireland did the first surveys of breeding curlew in the border counties, as part of the Halting Environmental Loss Project (HELP), funded by Interreg IVA. These highlighted severe declines and led NPWS to fund the first National Survey in 2015-17, which recorded just 124 pairs in the country.

“Following on from this, the NPWS Curlew Conservation Programme was set up in 2017 and involves locally based teams of advisors and nest protection officers, working closely with landowners and other local interests, to protect breeding Curlew nesting and improve habitat quality.

“The teams are looking for sightings of breeding curlew from landowners or members of the public. We are extremely keen to find all the remaining pairs in Donegal. Whether you see Curlew in suitable nesting habitat or observe obvious signs of breeding, we would like to hear from you,” said Martin.

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