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Curlew Conservation Programme Having Positive Impact

29th November 2023
Curlews - Nationally, there are just 100 breeding pairs remaining in Ireland
Curlews - Nationally, there are just 100 breeding pairs remaining in Ireland

Curlews along the Irish coastline are showing a positive trend, with the highest number of young fledged into the wild since 2017, according to a State conservation programme.

A total of 38 breeding pairs have been confirmed in the nine geographical areas of the programme – an increase of twelve pairs on last year.

Nationally, there are just 100 breeding pairs remaining in Ireland.

However, conservation efforts are having a “positive impact” on the curlew population, according to national breeding surveys.

The call of the large native wading bird, with long legs and a long down-curved bill, was once synonymous with the Irish landscape and has inspired song, poetry and stories.

The wader was once very widespread, even up to 30 years ago, but has since suffered a 98% crash in population, primarily due to changes in landscape and land-use.

A report issued during the final year of a dedicated conservation programme documents 42 chicks reaching fledgling stage in 2023, which is up from 19 in 2022.

The annual report of the Curlew Conservation Programme (CCP), a partnership between the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, says this represents an increase of 221% in the number of chicks fledged.

“Our history, culture and communities have such a deep connection with this precious species and its unique call, heard for centuries on our meadows and wetlands,” Minister of State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan has said.

“The work pioneered by the Curlew Conservation Programme over the past seven years shows that there are practical conservation efforts that we can take to stave off extinction of the curlew.,” he said.

“ It also shows that we need to ramp these efforts up significantly, while also addressing wider land use changes. We will be announcing detailed plans to do just this in the very near future, building on the solid foundations that the Curlew Conservation Programme has provided,” he said.

He paid tribute to local communities, farmers and landowners for supporting efforts.

As ground nesting birds, curlews are vulnerable to predators, infield operations and disturbance. This is compounded by degradation and loss of habitat in landscapes.

The Curlew Conservation Programme was established in response to a national survey, which identified the scale of the loss and action required to save it from extinction.

In Ireland, the curlew population has declined by 98% since the late 1980s/early 1990s.

Over the past seven years, NPWS has worked together with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to support local teams on the ground on a wide range of conservation activities.

It was estimated in 2016 that the curlew had just ten years left until extinction in Ireland, but the efforts of the Curlew Conservation Programme appear to have, for now, helped stave off this extinction, Noonan’s department has said.

Curlew Conservation Programme areas include the Stacks Mountains (Kerry), Lough Corrib North (Galway). Lough-Ree (Roscommon Westmeath), North Roscommon/Mayo, Mid-Leitrim, North Monaghan, Donegal, Sliabh Aughties (Clare Galway), Laois/Kildare.

Published in Marine Wildlife
Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Search and Rescue: True stories of Irish Air-Sea Rescues and the Loss of R116 (2022); Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004); and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010). She is also co-producer with Sarah Blake of the Doc on One "Miracle in Galway Bay" which recently won a Celtic Media Award

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Marine Wildlife Around Ireland One of the greatest memories of any day spent boating around the Irish coast is an encounter with marine wildlife.  It's a thrill for young and old to witness seabirds, seals, dolphins and whales right there in their own habitat. As boaters fortunate enough to have experienced it will testify even spotting a distant dorsal fin can be the highlight of any day afloat.  Was that a porpoise? Was it a whale? No matter how brief the glimpse it's a privilege to share the seas with Irish marine wildlife.

Thanks to the location of our beautiful little island, perched in the North Atlantic Ocean there appears to be no shortage of marine life to observe.

From whales to dolphins, seals, sharks and other ocean animals this page documents the most interesting accounts of marine wildlife around our shores. We're keen to receive your observations, your photos, links and youtube clips.

Boaters have a unique perspective and all those who go afloat, from inshore kayaking to offshore yacht racing that what they encounter can be of real value to specialist organisations such as the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) who compile a list of sightings and strandings. The IWDG knowledge base has increased over the past 21 years thanks in part at least to the observations of sailors, anglers, kayakers and boaters.

Thanks to the IWDG work we now know we share the seas with dozens of species who also call Ireland home. Here's the current list: Atlantic white-sided dolphin, beluga whale, blue whale, bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, Cuvier's beaked whale, false killer whale, fin whale, Gervais' beaked whale, harbour porpoise, humpback whale, killer whale, minke whale, northern bottlenose whale, northern right whale, pilot whale, pygmy sperm whale, Risso's dolphin, sei whale, Sowerby's beaked whale, sperm whale, striped dolphin, True's beaked whale and white-beaked dolphin.

But as impressive as the species list is the IWDG believe there are still gaps in our knowledge. Next time you are out on the ocean waves keep a sharp look out!