Citizen scientists can help to bring one of Ireland’s most iconic birds “back from the brink” – curlew conservation – by reporting sightings to the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).

The Curlew Conservation Programme is encouraging members of the public to record locations of curlew sightings between April and June and report the information to the NPWS team.

Breeding curlew are currently nesting in bogs, pastures, meadows and other open and wet habitats in curlew hotspots around the country.

By submitting records of sightings, the public can help build up a national picture of the number of breeding birds.

Minister for Heritage Malcolm Noonan described this as a “fantastic way for people across the country to get to know the wild places in their county”.

Curlew Conservation Programme

The Curlew Conservation Programme – jointly funded by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine – has been collaborating with landowners in nine key areas since 2017 in an effort to halt the decline of a bird whose numbers decreased by 96% in a 30-year period.

Curlew occur in flocks around many of Ireland’s coasts in winter, but the vast majority are migrants, with only around one in 30 birds actually breeding here in the spring.

Dr. Seán Kelly, NPWS waterbird ecologist managing the 2021 breeding curlew survey which will provide an update on the previous survey from 2015, said that breeding curlew populations in Ireland “are amongst the country’s most pressing conservation priorities”.

“There is huge positive momentum around the country for curlew conservation, particularly in the farming community, and we need to build upon this,” he added.

The NPWS said that the call of the curlew “is synonymous with the Irish countryside – from lowland grassland and raised bogs to our mountains and hills, their distinctive ‘coorlew’ call is a sign of spring”.

Curlew hotspots

Like a growing number of Ireland’s bird species, curlew populations have declined dramatically – so much so that fewer than 200 breeding pairs now occur across Ireland.

Minsters Noonan and Hackett jointly increased funding to enhance curlew conservation efforts earlier this year.

At the launch of the enhanced financial support for the Curlew Conservation Programme, Minister Noonan described the situation for curlew as “one of the most difficult and pressing conservation concerns of our time”.

The nine key curlew hotspots for the programme are: Stack’s Mountains, Kerry; Lough Corrib; Lough Ree; north Roscommon/Mayo; mid-Leitrim; north Monaghan; Donegal; Slieve Aughty Mountains; and Laois/Kildare.

Records of curlew sightings can be submitted via email to [email protected]; by phone to the survey coordinator on 083-104-8000; or online.