A dead curlew on the South Pennine moors

A dead curlew on the South Pennine moors

One of the most distinctive UK moorland birds is at risk as numbers of the species plummet.

The curlew has been placed on the British red list of birds causing concern, meaning its plaintive call and easily recognisable downturned bill could disappear from the country’s uplands.

Listing means it now the highest conservation priority as one of Britain’s most rapidly declining bird species, showing a 46 per cent decline across the UK from 1994 to 2010, with the figure exceeding 50 per cent in Wales and Scotland.

The UK holds almost a third of the European population and in response to these declines, and those seen elsewhere in Europe, the species has recently also been listed as globally near-threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature red list, one of the few British species to gain this unfortunate accolade.

The wintering population in the UK originates largely from Scandinavia, but also includes a significant proportion of UK-breeding birds, and has declined by 20 per cent in the last 15 years.

The British Trust for Ornithology said there is an urgent need to identify the causes of these curlew declines to guide potential conservation actions.

Dr Lucy Wright, research manager at BTO, said: “It is thought that increases in generalist predators reducing breeding success, afforestation of marginal hill land, changes in farming practice reducing habitat quality and climate change may all be playing a part in curlew declines but, at this stage we just don’t know enough and time for this beautiful bird is running out.

“Anyone can help by donating to the BTO Curlew Appeal that will fund scientists to carry out the research that will be vital in turning the curlew’s fortunes around.”

Details of the appeal and how to donate are on the BTO website.