Success for stone-curlews

A nationally rare bird is celebrating another successful breeding year in Norfolk and Suffolk.New figures from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and Natural England show that numbers of stone-curlews in Breckland have topped 200 pairs for the first time in recent years.

A rare bird is celebrating another successful breeding year in Norfolk and Suffolk.

New figures from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and Natural England show that numbers of stone-curlews in Breckland have topped 200 pairs for the first time in recent years.

The distinctive bird, which thrives on open heathland and arable land, suffered a major decline after the second world war as a result of forestry and intensive farming activities.

However, a project that has been working with landowners in Breckland since 1985 to protect nests, eggs and chicks has resulted in the largest population concentration in the country.

Tim Cowan, RSPB stone-curlew project officer, said that numbers in the area had increased to at least 205 this year, which had fledged more than 80 young.

He added that there had been successful breeding in north Norfolk and the Suffolk coast, but more could be done to increase the stone-curlew population in East Anglia.

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"Although stone-curlew numbers in the region are slowly increasing, the number nesting on natural habitats like grass heathland is static and there has been very little expansion of the breeding range."

"With the help of farmers, stone- curlews are increasing as the majority nest on arable land. However, for a more sustainable stone-curlew population in Eastern England, with less time-consuming protection work, we'd like to see both a big increase in grass heaths and more safe nesting areas created within arable farmland," he said.

The stone-curlew is one of 26 birds subject to government-backed Biodiversity Action Plans aimed at safeguarding their future and/or reversing declining numbers by 2010.