Curlew Country Project Background

Curlew Country Project Background

  • Curlew Country started work on the ground in 2015 in a core area of 200km2
  • Its focus area is a ‘hotspot’ of around 40 pairs of breeding curlew – a nationally significant curlew population
  • It has taken a new, pragmatic and trail-blazing approach, successfully trialling several UK firsts for curlew recovery
  • Curlew Country has engaged the farming and land managing community and involved them as partners in the process.
  • It has demonstrated and highlighted the need for predation control alongside habitat management to ensure curlew recovery
  • It has wide local volunteer and community involvement
  • It is a go-to organisation for help and advice on curlew recovery receiving multiple requests for advice and help
  • Curlew Country has changed views on sensitive issues such as predation control through evidence sharing and maintained the support of those sceptical
  • Curlew Country is actively contributing to local and national policy on curlews
  • It has achieved all of this on a shoestring


To view a map of the Curlew Country Focus Area click here. 


2014 – Planning

The work started as one of 15 projects which formed part of a Heritage Lottery Funded Landscape Partnership Scheme (LPS).  The original project designed on a top-down conservation basis failed to get off the ground. The project was re-designed to work in partnership with farmers and land managers, listening to their concerns and respecting their views.

Farming partnerships were forged to take part in a two-year trial to see why curlews were failing to breed locally.

2015 and 2016 – Monitoring

Nest monitoring work started.  Cameras and data-loggers were used to discover why curlews are failing to breed successfully on farms.  No chicks survived to fledging from any of the over 30 nests monitored.  Temporary electric fencing for curlew nests was trialled at three sites which were the only nests to get beyond egg stage to hatch chicks in 2016.

Monitoring of over 30 nests in 2015 and 2016 established that nest failure was due to predation or accidental agricultural nest disturbance.  Only 3 nests got beyond egg stage to chick stage each year; in 2016 the 3 nests were those protected by temporary electric fencing.

Implemented colour ringing programme and fixed two satellite tags to migratory birds to gain greater information of their winter habits.

2017 – Action

Interventions to start curlew recovery:

  • Temporary electric fencing erected around nests*
  • First UK licence obtained to headstart (incubate eggs) and pioneered this practice in the UK for curlews*
  • Work with farmers to reward crop interventions that successfully supported breeding curlews
  • Predation control over 3 trial areas of over 3,500ha.
  • Work with a farm business manager to establish the true cost to farm businesses of supporting breeding curlew and to identify gaps in the existing agri-environment schemes.
  • Created the Curlew Country Farmers’ Group
  • Curlew Cam – A live camera nest spreading awareness of the plight of breeding lowland curlews*
  • Production of a Curlew Observation CD in partnership with the BTO to help volunteers and other bird surveyors assess curlew behaviour*
  • Programme of arts awareness-raising events connected to Mary Colwell Hector’s walk across Ireland and England (Curlew Ambassador).
  • 3 chicks survived from natural nests where predation control was being carried out.

6 chicks were reared and released when fully fledged at a local migratory roost

2018 – Action

The Landscape Partnership Scheme finished, and The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust became host to Curlew Country

In 2017, eggs had been incubated and then replaced into nests at pipping stage to find out what was happening to the chicks.  All nests were fenced with temporary electric fencing and the egg to hatch rate increased dramatically, but the chicks were all subsequently lost.

In the absence of rewards for farmers forgoing crops to support breeding curlews and funding for predation control, Curlew Country decided to headstart to save the local curlew population of curlews from extinction, whilst other measures were sought.

21 chicks were reared and released when fully fledged by staff and volunteers in 2018

Winter sightings of headstarted chicks in Cornwall and Scilly Isles


Following a successful curlew appeal, avicultural experts The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) partnered Curlew Country in its head-starting initiative for one year only. WWT brought in-kind funding, training, equipment and staff and helped to increase Curlew Country’s curlew egg to hatch rate. Curlew Country contributed experience and knowledge of head-starting Curlews (a new species that WWT had not worked with) and of their behaviour in the landscape.

Attached gps tags to breeding curlew

33 chicks were released at fully fledged stage

First ever head-started UK chick returns to breed in the landscape in which it was reared and released by Curlew Country*

Training for farmers and other groups from across the UK wanting to start curlew work


Fieldwork postponed because of COVID-19

*UK firsts

For more information on Nest Monitoring and previous years reports click here.

Skip to content