Curlew in danger of extinction in Ireland, says conservationist

Task force recommends series of measures after 96% decline in numbers since 1980s

Ireland should restrict afforestation, recreate peatlands and wetlands and safeguard bogs to protect the endangered curlew bird, a report has recommended.

On Friday, the curlew task force published a series of recommendations aimed at promoting key policies and action for the conservation of one of Ireland’s most threatened bird species.

The group was set up in 2017 to arrest the significant decline in the native breeding population of the bird, which has seen a 96 per cent loss in numbers since the late 1980s.

In its report, the task force recommended the need for payments to landowners for sympathetic management, protection for curlew sites from inappropriate developments such as peat extraction and forestry.


The report also suggested that Ireland designs and delivers effective predator control to protect breeding curlew, as well as calling for further research into their decline.

The group also make an overarching call for the development of a species action plan aimed at rescuing the bird.

The report, which was compiled by a wide range of stakeholders including farmers, academic institutions, conservation NGOs and turf cutters, followed a two-year consultation process.

Minister for Heritage Josepha Madigan acknowledged the suite of recommendations.

“Clearly the decline in curlew numbers is a significant conservation concern and we are determined to work together across Government to halt and reverse this decline,” she said.

“Some of the recommendations of the curlew task force are well advanced, while others will require further discussion and consideration across Government. These recommendations provide a blueprint for future policy in relation to the curlew in Ireland.”

Alan Lauder, independent chair of the task force, urged people to "take the opportunity to maintain the momentum and to build on the conservation work for curlew as it offers an opportunity for vital heritage conservation, in the broadest sense".

Dr Anita Donaghy, assistant head of conservation with BirdWatch Ireland, welcomed the recommendations.

“Ireland is only the second country in the world to have declared a climate and biodiversity emergency, but due to the species’ rapid and widespread decline, we are also in danger of becoming the first EU country to lose the curlew to extinction,” she said.

“Recognition must be given to the importance of protecting areas with nesting curlews from afforestation and other damaging land use changes, as well as supporting farmers who maintain high nature value farmland, such as the places where curlews breed.”

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is a reporter for The Irish Times