Drive is on to reverse decline of ‘The Curlew’

Please report curlew sightings and calls!

The curlew is an iconic Irish bird with an unmistakable ascending “cur…lee cur…lee” call that was once commonly heard in the Irish countryside.

Sadly they have suffered a drastic decline in recent years. 96% of the Irish breeding population has been lost since the 1970s and a national survey carried out in 2021 found that only 104 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.

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 Mayo/Roscommon where the Curlew Action Team is 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, our native curlews are now going back to their nesting sites. Meanwhile, curlews from the continent that spend the winter in Ireland are heading back to their breeding sites in Northern Europe.

Curlews lay 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 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 Mayo and Roscommon. We also have a Facebook page (Mayo/Roscommon Curlew Conservation Programme) where you can follow our work and report sightings.