Sunday 20 October 2019

One of Ireland's most iconic birds facing extinction within 10 years

The Curlew:Moving northwards
The Curlew:Moving northwards

Caroline O'Doherty

One of the country’s most iconic birds, the curlew, will be extinct within ten years unless wide ranging action is taken to save it.

A Government appointed task force warns the population has fallen by 96% in 30 years and a combination of loss of habitat to farming and forestry and predators such as foxes and other birds are likely to wipe it out completely.

Their report, submitted after a two-year study, warns: “The population of curlew is critically low…..in the absence of any action, the curlew will become extinct as a breeding species in Ireland within 10 years.

“Saving the curlew from extinction in Ireland is one of the greatest conservation challenges faced by Ireland.”

Only around 150 breeding pairs of curlews are believed to exist in the country, scattered mainly around counties Kerry, Roscommon, Mayo, Leitrim, Monaghan, Donegal and Galway.

The task force report recommends that a conservation programme run by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) continue and upscale.

The population of the curlew has declined by 97pc here since the 1980s
The population of the curlew has declined by 97pc here since the 1980s

It says greater efforts need to be made to preserve habitats and nest sites in conjunction with farmers and other landowners.

Protective fencing around nests need to be stepped up along with legal culls of foxes, mink, hooded crow and magpie within a kilometre of nesting sites.

Read more: Study reveals three billion fewer birds over North America

Greater public education is also urged and the NPWS wants to recruit the public’s help in monitoring the remaining population.

Dr Barry O’Donoghue, who leads the NPWS conservation programme, said there was some improvement in the number of hatchlings this year but he said saving them would take input from wider society.

He is asking anyone who saw curlews over the summer months, particularly from May to July, to report the locations. “Knowing where curlew breed allows the NPWS to work with landowners to help curlew rear their young and it is hoped that more pairs can be found in 2020,” he said.

Accepting the task force report, Heritage Minister Josepha Madigan said: “Clearly the decline in curlew numbers is a significant conservation concern and we are determined to work across Government to halt and reverse this decline.”

Curlews: BirdWatch Ireland is seeking the public’s help in spotting breeding activity
Curlews: BirdWatch Ireland is seeking the public’s help in spotting breeding activity

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