'Cry of curlew' now a lament as numbers fall
THE "cry of the curlew" was once a familiar sound around the Irish coast.
But now the iconic wetland bird is going the way of the corncrake, with less than 200 breeding pairs left. Fears of a catastrophic crash in their numbers have been confirmed with a new study that reveals there are only eight pairs left in the strongholds of Mayo and Donegal.
"We should spend the money on conservation now," says Niall Hatch of BirdWatch Ireland. "Unless something urgent happens it will become extinct (in Ireland) in the next 10 years."
Mr Hatch said it is shocking that these birds are allowed to be hunted every November in Ireland despite their critically low numbers.
He said: "Species like duck can be hunted during the month of November but it's insane that curlews are on this list.
"We have seen reports from hunters on boards.ie of people shooting the bird out of curiosity to see what it tastes like.
"We don't know how many are shot each year but even if one is shot then it represents one per cent of the population disappearing."
He said the curlew represents the sound of the Irish countryside for many people in Ireland.
"A generation of people grew up listening to the curlew. Besides the emotive impact it is really important to our national heritage.
"The country could also do without a massive fine coming from the European Union if we lose a species."
BirdWatch Ireland is urgently appealing for more funds for their Curlew Appeal to carry out a more detailed national survey.
Donations can be be made by logging on to www.birdwatchireland.ie or by phoning BirdWatch Ireland on 01-2819878.
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