Rapid decline could make curlew extinct in Ireland in decade

A A A

The curlew, the wetland wader with the decurved bill and haunting call, has almost vanished from Ireland in a mere 20 years, in one of the most dramatic declines ever recorded for a bird in the British Isles.

From a breeding population estimated at 5,000 pairs in 1991, the Irish curlew's numbers have dropped to fewer than 200 pairs today, which if the estimates are correct would represent a staggering decline of more than 96 per cent. It is feared than in another decade the bird could be extinct.

"Everything points to a decline which is truly catastrophic," said Anita Donaghy of Birdwatch Ireland, who led a survey of curlew numbers this spring. "We could hardly believe the results we were getting."

The survey looked at 60 sites which previously held curlews in Donegal and Mayo and found that only six of them were occupied – with a total of only eight pairs, four in Mayo and four in Donegal.

Recently completed fieldwork for the new Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Britain and Ireland, which will be published in 2013, shows how much the range of the bird has shrunk since the last version of the book was published 20 years ago.

In Britain, where it is still fairly numerous, the curlew's range – defined as the number of 10km grid squares in which it is recorded breeding – has contracted by 14 per cent over the period. In Ireland the contraction is 61 per cent, and this year's BirdWatch Ireland survey looked at total numbers rather than range, where the decline is seen as greater still.

Dr Donaghy said observations indicated that changes in land use were behind the drastic drop. Curlews nest in damp, rushy pastures and on open moorland, using their long, curved bills to probe for food in soft, wet areas along ditches or in shallow pools where their chicks can easily find insect food.

But these sorts of areas, once common in Ireland, are disappearing with developments such as the commercial extraction of peat from bogs, the planting of forests, more intensive management of grasslands and even the construction of wind farms, Dr Donaghy said. While there were no actual studies showing that wind farms had a negative effect, it was unlikely that curlews would breed in their vicinity, she said.

BirdWatch Ireland is running its Cry of the Curlew Appeal to put protection measures in place. "Our research has shown that the curlew breeding population is in an even more perilous state than we thought," its chief executive, Alan Lauder, said. "Unfortunately the remaining funds are not adequate to take the action needed to identify the remaining pairs and put measures in place to protect them."

Arts and Entertainment
TVShow's twee, safe facade smashed by ice cream melting scandal
News
newsVideo for No campaign was meant to get women voting
News
A photo of Charles Belk being detained by police on Friday 22 August
news
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 200th birthday of Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Assessor

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Sustainability Assessor...

Music Teacher

£110 - £150 per day + Mileage and Expenses: Randstad Education Leeds: We are l...

A Level Chemistry Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Part-time A Level Chemist...

Teaching Assistant

£12000 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Secondary Teaching ...

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?