07/12/2015
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Spotlight on Eurasian Curlew

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Eurasian Curlew is undergoing a marked decline, despite still being seen in numbers at Britain's wetland reserves and estuaries. Photo: Laurie Campbell (rspb-images.com).
Eurasian Curlew is undergoing a marked decline, despite still being seen in numbers at Britain's wetland reserves and estuaries. Photo: Laurie Campbell (rspb-images.com).
After a recent report showed that 25 per cent of British birds are in danger, the RSPB has said that Eurasian Curlew should be the country's top conservation priority.

Britain’s largest wader has been moved to the Red List of birds owing to a new study, and RSPB Scotland has called for Eurasian Curlew to be considered the highest conservation targeted bird species in the UK.

The UK is responsible for as much as 27 per cent of the world’s breeding Eurasian Curlews, but they are being lost at an alarming rate. The population has fallen by 43 per cent since the mid-1990s, and their global status is listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN. A new report assessing the status of all Britain’s 244 breeding bird species – Birds of Conservation Concern 4 – has also placed the curlew on its Red List as a bird of Highest Conservation Concern’.

The report is compiled by a coalition of leading conservation organisations, reviewing the status of all birds in Britain. Each species is assessed and placed on the Green, Amber or Red List, which indicate an increasing level of conservation concern. The Red List now contains 27 per cent of the UK’s birds, an increase from 52 species in 2009 to 67 species in 2015.

Eurasian Curlew to give its full name has around 68,000 breeding pairs in Britain, with a notable proportion in the Scottish uplands. The RSPB and Britain’s four national conservation agencies set out the case for focusing conservation efforts on Eurasian Curlews in a recently-published paper

Dan Brown, Conservation Adviser with RSPB Scotland and lead author of the study, said: “To see [Eurasian] Curlew populations falling so drastically is a major concern. We are responsible for more than a quarter of the world’s population in the UK, so the large declines currently occurring may be having a big impact on the global population. On this basis, the curlew emerges as our highest priority species from a global perspective, [as] conservation success in the UK will go a long way to helping secure the global population. We also approach this work acutely aware that, sadly, two close relatives of the Eurasian curlew –Eskimo Curlew and Slender-billed Curlew – are highly likely to have become extinct in recent decades.

“We are working hard at home and across the curlew’s global range to mobilise support and plan conservation work. We have just co-ordinated an international conservation plan through the African Eurasian Waterbird Agreement. Meanwhile, at home, we have a Curlew Recovery Programme that started in earnest this year.” This programme of work includes a five-year research project at six sites across Britain, where land management techniques aimed at improving breeding habitats and increasing breeding success will be investigated.

Andrew Douse, Senior Ornithologist with SNH, said:  “The drop in curlew numbers demonstrates well a more general issue: a worrying decrease of many upland birds, all of which have large populations across the Scottish uplands. Familiar species such as Merlin, Whinchat, Grey Wagtail and Dotterel have all declined. These changes likely relate to habitat changes, climate change and in some cases, predation. We’re working hard to understand the causes of these changes to make sure we conserve these important birds of the Scottish hills and mountains."
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