Curlew is at risk of disappearing

There are three things which make the curlew utterly distinctive: its down-curving bill, its large s

There are three things which make the curlew utterly distinctive: its down-curving bill, its large size, and the call which gives the species its name. Picture: Steve Plume - Credit: Archant

Its iconic bubbling call tells us spring is on the way. But experts fear the curlew could soon be singing its swan song.

Research out today in a scientific journal warns the species is at risk across the globe from habitat loss and climate change.

Bird Conservation International warns more than half of the world's species of curlews and godwits are of conservation concern, while some are critically endangered.

Three which visit out shores - the Eurasian curlew, bar-tailed godwit and black-tailed godwit, are 'globally near threatened'.

All curlew and godwit species nest on the ground in the open. The report says habitat loss through changes in farming practices, drainage, tree planting and disturbance is 'a significant pressure' across Europe.

James Pearce-Higgins, Director of Science at the Thetford-based British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), and lead author of the report, said: 'These long-lived wader species require wild open landscapes for breeding, and generally occupy undisturbed coastal habitats at other times of the year. Many are long-distance migrants and vulnerable to change throughout their annual cycle. In many ways, they are among the most sensitive bird species to global change. That over half of the species studied are rapidly declining globally should emphasise to us the impact we are having upon the planet.'

Nicola Crockford, principal policy officer at the RSPB, said: 'The Eurasian curlew is an iconic species, its appearance in spring is announced by one of nature's most evocative calls. Sadly like many UK species the Eurasian curlew is in trouble, their numbers have dropped dramatically, putting them at risk of disappearing completely.

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'The paper recommends that achieving conservation success at the national or international scale will likely require dedicated programmes targeting species at risk, like we have developed for the Eurasian curlew in the UK where steep declines have been a major factor in the listing of the species as globally near threatened with extinction.

£Through RSPB's curlew recovery programme and BTO's programme of curlew research, we are working in partnership with a range of people from farmers and land owners to statutory nature conservation bodies, to reverse this decline.'

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