False Reassurances

Each year, someone within the project area publishes a photo of a number of adult curlew and suggests that the population level is not a problem and even that curlew are, despite the evidence, breeding successfully.  Our attention has been drawn to this happening in July of this year.  Below we address why this can be an issue…

group of curlew
Groups of curlew seen in June or July are actually failed breeders

The Curlew Country team work very hard each year trying to get to the bottom of the causes of population decline, and this year especially, implement measures to intervene. Our small group of nest finders work on the evidence built up by the local bird group volunteers to pin point nests and do what we can to protect and monitor them. Although to some our estimate of 3-8 chicks that successfully fledged this year seems low, it is a step in the right direction. Certainly after two years of watching nest after nest failing and chicks taken within days of hatching, it’s positively a ray of sunshine.

Sadly, each year someone in the project area publishes a photo of a group of adult curlew, with the suggestion that the population level is not a problem, or even that in spite of the evidence, they are breeding successfully. We have been drawn attention to the fact that this has happened again in July of this year. Not only does this go against years of monitoring evidence, but it undermines the work of the project and can sow seeds of doubt in the eyes of the public.

It is important to note that groups of adult curlew seen in June or July are actually failed breeders. They come together to feed before they migrate back to their winter territories, which can be a long way from their breeding grounds. But we must remember, due to the longevity of the curlew, sightings of groups like this are not a sign that the population is fine. These could often be the same birds’ year on year, failing to breed and gathering together in a gradually aging population.

How can YOU help?

Ornithologist Tony Cross has been working hard to colour ring curlew before they head to their breeding grounds. Over a hundred birds have now been fitted with colour rings. If you see a large group of birds try to check them for these rings, and report sightings either to Tony Cross at avcross@btinternet.com or via the BTO website here.  This information can help to update us on curlew movement and activity, adding to the data that can aid curlew recovery.

Look out for juveniles! Juveniles are distinguishable from adult curlew by their much shorter bill, as shown in the pictures below. If you think you’ve seen a juvenile curlew somewhere in the scheme area be sure to let us know, you can submit sightings via our online bird form or by contacting us directly.

juvenile curlew
Juveniles with shorter beaks and slightly smaller stature
adult curlew
Adult curlew have longer beaks than the juveniles

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