Curlews with GPS tags released into wild in bid to increase numbers

Curlews fitted with GPS tags have been released as a part of a project to increase numbers of the species in the region.

Curlews fitted with GPS tags have been released as a part of a project to increase numbers of the species in the region. - Credit: British Trust for Ornithology

Curlews fitted with GPS tags have been released as part of a project to increase numbers of the species in the region.

The tagged birds are two of more than 80 young Eurasian Curlew that have been released at Sandringham and Wild Ken Hill throughout July and August. 

Birds without GPS tags have been fitted with uniquely coded coloured leg rings in order to identify them if they are seen again.  

Radio and GPS tags fitted to a small sample of Curlews allow for scientists to keep up to date with the two birds, by following their movements and behaviours. 

A curlew being tagged with a GPS tracker by the British Trust for Ornithology.

A curlew being tagged with a GPS tracker by the British Trust for Ornithology - Credit: British Trust for Ornithology

Dr Sam Franks, a senior Research Ecologist at the British Trust for Ornithology in Thetford, said: “These tags have revealed for the first time how young headstarted Curlew learn about the landscape into which they’ve been released. 


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“It has been fascinating to observe the different behaviour between individuals.  

“Just like people with different personalities, some Curlew are more adventurous and exploratory, while others are more risk averse, avoiding novel conditions and sticking with what they know.” 

Radio and GPS tags fitted to a small sample of Curlews allow for scientists to keep up to date with the two birds.

Radio and GPS tags fitted to a small sample of Curlews allow for scientists to keep up to date with the two birds. - Credit: British Trust for Ornithology

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The daily location of the two rare birds is downloaded by the tags over the mobile phone network. 

One of the Curlew, nicknamed ‘0E’, has proved to be the more adventurous of the two, exploring the fields adjacent to the release site before moving further afield to the Wash, mimicking the behaviour of other visiting wild curlews. 

The second Curlew, nicknamed ‘3A’ has stayed mainly around the release site, but has begun to explore the Snettisham Coastal Park. 

Dave Slater, the Director for Wildlife Licensing and Enforcement Cases at Natural England has stated that recovering declining curlew numbers is a priority for Natural England. 

He said: “This tracking data provides an excellent insight into the behaviour of birds released by this landmark project.  

“This early data shows that they are acting like their wild counterparts in their movements and mixing with other wild curlew, which is exactly what we wanted to see.” 

The Curlew is Europe’s largest wading bird and is now red-listed, meaning it is of the highest conservation priority. 

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