Work to begin to save the Curlew from extinction

The Curlew that was once prominent on the bog lands of Wicklow, now faces extinction

BirdWatch Ireland warmly welcomes the announcement today by Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Mrs. Heather Humphreys, that she is establishing a Task Force to bring the Curlew back from the brink of extinction in Ireland.


The Curlew is a bird known and loved by many in rural Ireland due to its plaintive call. In 2012 BirdWatch Ireland first became aware of the extent of the decline in numbers of Curlew and their range.  Since then we have been calling on Government to take urgent action for the species. Subsequent survey work commissioned by the National Parks and Wildlife Service in 2015 and 2016, and largely undertaken by BirdWatch Ireland with the help of the public, located just 122 pairs of breeding Curlew representing a decline of 97% in the last 40 years.


“We welcome that Minister Humphreys has responded to calls from BirdWatch Ireland and other concerned organisations to take action to protect breeding Curlew”, said Dr Anita Donaghy, Senior Conservation Officer with BirdWatch Ireland.  “The establishment of this task force is a milestone for all who have worked hard to bring the plight of the Curlew to the attention of Government and the wider public. We hope that the Task Force will bring together all the key groups to develop a Threat Response Plan and implement actions that will save the species. Farmers, conservationists, contractors, foresters, government staff, community groups and private and semi-state bodies, all have a role. We will need to work together to save the Curlew.”


Most Curlew in Ireland nest on bogland, but farmland such as wet grassland is also a very important nesting habitat for them. Declines in the numbers have been driven mostly by the loss of bogs, agricultural intensification and predation. Land abandonment, afforestation and illegal upland burning in the breeding season are also issues of concern.


BirdWatch Ireland looks forward to working constructively with the Minister to ensure that this iconic species which is a key part of our national heritage is brought back from the brink and its populations begin to grow again.

Pictures Colm Clarke and John Carey

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