The long, decurved bill, reminiscent of a crescent moon, and its evocative bubbling call are distinctive characteristics that make the Curlew so easily identifiable. Yet it is in real danger of becoming a thing of the past as it has just become one of the newest additions to the British Red List of Birds of Conservation Concern, and deemed to be of the highest conservation priority.
At the end of the Second World War, pairs of breeding Curlew could be found in Glamorgan from the Rhymney Valley to West Gower (Birds of Glamorgan, Hurford & Lansdown ). However, the East Glamorgan 2007-11 Atlas shows that breeding was only confirmed from one 10km square around Merthyr.
Our local decline is mirrored across the UK. The Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) shows a 46% decline across the UK in the last two decades, with this figure exceeding 50% in Wales and Scotland. Critically, the UK holds 28% of Europe’s breeding Curlew, meaning that declines here represent the loss of a substantial portion of Europe’s total breeding Curlew population.
The UK’s population of wintering Curlew is also of global importance, representing nearly one-fifth of the world population. Resident breeding Curlew are joined in winter by birds from the Continent and Scandinavia. However, the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) estimates about a 20% decline in Curlew numbers over the last 15 years.
To unpick the causes of Curlew population decline the BTO is planning a ground-breaking programme of research, analysing existing datasets to investigate patterns of extinction and colonisation and utilising revolutionary new technology to track wintering Curlew. The sooner we can start on this research, the sooner we can understand the conservation actions needed to help Curlew recover.
Our target for the first year is £100,000 to begin this vitally important research.
Find out more about the appeal and some of the questions we want to investigate or make a donation to help reverse the fortunes of this beautiful bird.
Mist nets are commonly used by researchers to capture birds in the study of their behaviour, movements and demographics. A recently published study has, for the first time, evaluated the risks associated with mist netting.
Mortality and injury rates were quantified from over 300,000 birds caught by 22 banding (ringing) organisations across the US and Canada. Risk factors which could increase rates of injury or mortality including bird size, age, frequency of capture and the role of predators were all assessed.
Results indicate that injury and mortality rates below one percent can be achieved during mist netting and injured birds are likely to survive in comparable numbers to uninjured birds after release. Rates of incident varied among species, with some at greater risk than others.
Mist netting then has low rates of incident when conducted with adequate training and bird safety precautions in mind.
Spotswood, Erica N. et al (2011) How safe is mist netting? evaluating the risk of injury and mortality to birds. Methods in Ecology & Evolution. Article first published online: 30 June 2011, DOI: 10.1111/j.2041-210X.2011.00123.x