Task force reveals plan to stop curlew's extinction in Ireland

Task force reveals plan to stop curlew's extinction in Ireland
An adult curlew. Pic: Joe Shannon.

The curlew task force has launched a plan to conserve one of Ireland’s most threatened bird species.

The curlew has seen a drastic 97% decline in population in Ireland since the 1980s.

A recent national study into the bird revealed that there are fewer than 150 breeding pairs.

Ireland is host to thousands of visiting curlew in winter but they return to their own breeding grounds in Britain, Scandinavia and Russia in the spring.

The presence of these migrant birds may have masked the decline of the native breeding population, according to the curlew task force, with people seeing larger numbers of these birds along our winter shorelines.

The chair of the curlew task force, Alan Lauder, told RTÉ's Morning Ireland that curlews like large open spaces and there are fewer in the country because their habitats here are becoming fragmented.

Mr Lauder said: "We had so many thousands and now we are on the brink of extinction.

"We could be seeing single figures and functionally they are extinct at that point."

The task force published its recommendations following a two-year consultation to address the significant decline in the native breeding population of the bird.

It identifies that the Curlew Conservation Programme – established in 2017 and managed by the Department’s National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) – focuses on conservation action and engagement with stakeholders and should “continue to be supported, and as soon as practicable, upscaled and expanded”.

Dr Barry O’Donoghue of the NPWS, who leads the curlew conservation programme, said: “The conservation of the curlew will require a co-ordinated approach by a wide range of stakeholders, but based on this years’ breeding productivity we can see that the Curlew Conservation Programme has had a positive effect.

A curlew chick. Pic: Joe Shannon.
A curlew chick. Pic: Joe Shannon.

"The Curlew Action Teams have worked incredibly hard over the past three years and many landowners, in particular farmers, have had a huge role to play in the success of the programme to date."

The NPWS is calling on the public to help the Conservation Programme in its efforts.

Dr O’Donoghue added: “While at present we have curlew visiting our shores to spend the autumn and winter with us, the National Parks & Wildlife Service are asking for the public to let them know about any curlew sightings they may have had over the summer months, especially in May, June and July.

Knowing where curlew breed allows the NPWS to work with landowners to help Curlew rear their young and it is hoped that more pairs can be found in 2020.”

The public can contact the NPWS by Email (Agri.Ecology@chg.gov.ie) and at 076-100-2611.

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