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Celebrating World Curlew Day

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Wednesday 21st April is World Curlew Day 2021, and we are celebrating and raising awareness around this wader species. 

Curlews are Europe’s largest wading bird and used to be a common sight on the shores of Lough Erne, however since 1987, the curlew population on the island of Ireland has declined by 89%! (RSPB NI, 2019). Lough Erne hosts approximately 25% of the Northern Ireland population or 20% of the all Ireland population. The Curlew is listed on the red list of vulnerable species and must be protected to ensure its survival into the future.  

To address this worrying trend, LELP are currently supporting two projects being delivered by the RSPB and Lough Erne Wildfowlers Council in the restoration of habitat for breeding waders on Lough Erne. These projects are carrying out activities involving habitat management such as scrub clearance and seminatural grassland management to improve breeding and foraging conditions,  working with and advising local landowners and farmers, and raising curlew awareness to the general public and what they can do to preserve this species.  

Curlews are elusive wading birds, identifiable by their long down turned beak, brown markings, long legs and have a very distinctive call. Curlews nest from mid-April to mid-July and require a month to incubate their eggs, with chicks fledging around 5-6 weeks after hatching. 

Like other wading birds, curlews nest on the ground and favour areas where vegetation is typical of damp habitats, making the shores of Lough Erne the ideal habitat for nesting sites.  

Curlews eat all sorts of invertebrates picked from the surface or found by probing soft ground. Adults feed on earthworms, leatherjackets, beetles, spiders, caterpillars; chicks generally feed on surface insects. 

What can you do to help the curlew?  

  • If walking along shorelines of potential curlew habitat, ensure to avoid long rushes or grassy area’s where curlews may be nesting, especially at this time of year (April to July). 
  • Keep all dogs on a lead to avoid unnecessary disturbance to breeding pairs.  
  • Encourage traditionally managed grasslands as the greater diversity of grasses, herbs and flowering plants provide more insect food for chicks and adults to feed on. 
  • Share this post, comment your curlew photos, record your sightings and help raise awareness about this amazing wading bird, living on our shores here in Co. Fermanagh!