Sadly, they have suffered a drastic decline in recent years. 96 per cent of the Irish breeding population has been lost since the 1970s, and a national survey carried out between 2015 and 2017 found that only 138 pairs remain in the Republic of Ireland, with an estimated 250 additional pairs in Northern Ireland. Inappropriate forestry planting, peat extraction and intensification of farming have all led to the demise of the curlew.
Results from a new national survey that took place last year shows further decline – with just 104 breeding pairs left in the Republic of Ireland.
The Curlew Conservation Programme, established in 2017 by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, is working to reverse this decline. Nine core breeding areas have been identified in the country, where they work with landowners and communities across the country to try and save the last remaining curlews.
One of the areas included in the programme is East Mayo and North Roscommon, where the Curlew Action Team are currently working to identify where breeding pairs occur within the region. The aim is to locate nest sites and employ nest protection measures to give the bird the best chance of breeding success.
After spending the winter at their feeding grounds, curlews are now heading back to their nesting grounds, laying their eggs between mid-April and mid-May. Usually four eggs are laid and incubated for 27-30 days, and all chicks hatch by May/June and are fledged by mid-July. They breed on upland and lowland bogs and on wet and unimproved grassland. In general, they avoid areas close to trees and scrub which can provide cover for predators.
To help the local Curlew Action Team identify nest sites we are asking the public to report any sightings/curlew calls they come across over the next few weeks in counties Mayo and Roscommon. Please contact James Owens (083-1747213) or Brian Hughes (089-2280381) from the Curlew Conservation team in East Mayo and North Roscommon. You may also email our national project manager Hubert at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit our Facebook page (East Mayo/North Roscommon Curlew Conservation Programme) to follow our work and report any sightings.