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Salt Marsh Curlew

The curlew is a regular visitor to our salt marshes. In winter you might be lucky to see a curfew of 50 or so salt marsh curlew. You can also see them in summer but not so many. So how come they share the same conservation status as the jaguar?

Sadly in many parts of the country they are disappearing. So we need to take action before the population falls any further.

Salt marsh curlew facing extinction


Threatened with extinction, but why?

Curlew numbers in the UK have halved over the last 25 years. So they are now on the UK red list. The UK holds about 20-25% of the global breeding population. Most of these curlews breed in the uplands in the north. There is estimated to be only 2,000 breeding pairs remaining in southern, lowland areas. So there is a real risk that soon there will be no breeding curlews in Ireland, Wales and lowland southern England.

It is because the curlews are not able to successfully rear young that the numbers are plummeting. So when today’s adults die there may be no “next generation” to take their place.

The reasons for this are:

  1. Habitat loss and degradation. This includes urban development, grassland intensification, drainage, afforestation and peat extraction.
  2. Some agricultural practices such as early rolling and cutting of grass for silage lead to direct loss of eggs and chicks.
  3. Abundant generalist predators such as Foxes and Carrion Crows are key threats to eggs and chicks.
  4. Recreational disturbance may disturb birds from their nests. This might also give away their positions to nearby predators.
  5. Climate change and extreme weather e.g. drying of breeding sites, inundation of coastal sites

PS Thanks to the Curlew Recovery Partnership for these facts.


What can we do to protect them?

The curlew is an indicator species. So when things are bad for the curlew they are also bad for other species. Getting conditions right for breeding curlews will also benefit other ground nesting birds and many other associated species. It will be win win for the curlew, biodiversity and us.

  1. The first and easiest action for us to do is to stay by the sea wall when out on our salt marshes. Please don’t be tempted to roam across the marsh and, of course, keep dogs by the sea wall footpath too.  Our curlews will then be able to feed and rest undisturbed. We need them in prime condition to try to raise a family when the time comes. They will have their work cut out protecting their eggs and chicks from predators and other threats, so need to be fighting fit!
  2. Support the organisations that are working hard to protect the curlews :
  • Curlew Recovery Partnership (RCP) is a partnership of all the major organisations involved in protecting the curlew.  You can see all of the organisations partnering the RCP on this page. If you want to be actively involved in saving the curlew this may be a good organisation to contact.
  • Curlew Action are part of the Curlew Recovery Partnership (as are all of the organisations mentioned in this section). They are fundraising to save the curlew so if you cannot help in the field you could maybe donate or make a purchase from Curlew Action.
  • WWT are running a Curlew Recovery Programme. As part of this they are rearing curlew and releasing them into the Severn Estuary. So look our for ringed curlew on our salt marshes.


Find out more about our salt marsh curlew?

You can read more on our dedicated curlew page.


But what about the poor old Jaguar?

Well here are some links to organisations trying to save this wonderful creature.

Please note that the Friends have no connection to any of the organisations listed on this page. So it is up to you to check their validity.

See our salt marsh index for fascinating salt marsh facts