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Curlews, Culture and Conservation´┐╝

Rhiannon Liversuch Oct 22 - 3 min read

Photograph by David Swann

Last month, we announced our Charity Partnership with Curlew Action – a small charity dedicated to conserving these beautiful birds. We are really happy to be supporting this super charity, and by using Coreo, you’re helping curlews too.

As part of working with Curlew Action, we wanted to provide a bit of background behind this wonderful bird and what the charity is doing to help them. In this first blog post, Curlew Action tell us about the Curlew, how they play a huge part in British culture and the challenges the species is facing.

The Curlew – General bio

The Eurasian Curlew is the UK’s largest wading bird. Easily recognised by its long legs, equally long down-curved bill and mottled brown plumage, Curlew can be seen in the UK year round. During the winter months their numbers swell, as thousands of Curlew join them from the more northerly climes of Central Europe to seek refuge in our milder climate.

Curlew chick (it will grow into those legs!) – Photograph by Tim Melling

The Curlew has secured its place in our cultural history, not least because of its unique and evocative call. Historically, the call has sometimes been taken as an omen of death (fishermen and miners have been known to refuse work if they had heard a Curlew call the previous night). For many, however, the call is much less ominous and heralds the start of the Spring, even before the Cuckoo has arrived on our shores.

The problems facing the Eurasian Curlew

It’s hard to believe, but Curlew numbers were once so great that they were commonly included in cooking recipes. Their current position, however, is far more precarious. Since the mid 1900s the population has been in decline, with losses as great as 69% in Wales.

The continual decline of the Eurasian Curlew in the UK has led to the species being added to the UK Conservation Status Report ‘Red List’.

The key problem today lies in the low survival rate of eggs and chicks. Once Curlews reach adulthood, they have a very good chance of survival. Currently, hatchling success rate is estimated at 0.25, meaning that for every 4 breeding pairs only 1 chick is successfully reared to adulthood. This number needs to be almost double before Curlew populations can become stable, let alone begin to increase.

These drastic declines, seen in many of the UK’s wading bird species, have been influenced by a variety of factors, including changes in land management, predator populations, habitat availability and weather patterns. With the UK holding approximately 25% of the global population of the Eurasian Curlew, the species has become a flagship of UK conservation.

Practical conservation is an important aspect of fortifying the populations we have. For example, various conservation bodies and landowners are working to protect important habitats and individual nests. And initiatives like ‘head-starting’ (rearing eggs and chicks in artificial environments and releasing them at fledging age), could make a real difference in curbing the current rate of decline both nationally and internationally.

Photograph by Andy Gregory

About Curlew Action

It is our aim at Curlew Action to promote and support conservation measures and to raise awareness about the plight of this iconic bird. As a so-called umbrella species – a species that if protected, would confer the protection of a variety of other species – the conservation of the Eurasian Curlew can help achieve the target of a future rich in biodiversity. Our hope is that through our ethos of communication, outreach and engagement, we can stimulate public support in favour of making room for the Eurasian Curlew, and thereby nature more widely.

Author: Hannah Gulliford Fundraising and Operations at Curlew Action.

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