Moves stepped up to stem decline of curlew population in Mayo

The curlew is an iconic Irish bird with an unmistakable ascending “cur...lee cur...lee” call that was once commonly heard in the Irish countryside.

Sadly, they have suffered a drastic decline in recent years.

Up to 96% of the Irish breeding population has been lost since the 1970s and a national survey carried out between 2015 and 2017 found that only 138 pairs remain in the Republic of Ireland, with an estimated 250 additional pairs in Northern Ireland.

Inappropriate forestry planting, peat extraction and intensification of farming have all led to the demise of the curlew.

To try and reverse this decline the Curlew Conservation Programme was established in 2017 by the National Parks and Wildlife Service which identified nine core breeding areas in the country. The Curlew Conservation Programme works with landowners and communities across the country to try and save the last remaining curlew.

One of the areas included in the programme is east Mayo and north Roscommon where the Curlew Action Team are currently working to identify where breeding pairs occur within the region.

The aim is to locate nest sites and employ nest protection measures to give the bird the best chance of breeding success.

Curlew starts to come back to their breeding grounds in late March/early April, laying their eggs between mid-April and mid-May.

Usually four eggs are laid and incubated for 27-30 days and all chicks hatch by May/June and are fledged by mid-July.

They breed on upland and lowland bogs and on wet and unimproved grassland. In general, they avoid areas close to trees and scrub which can provide cover for predators.

To help the local Curlew Action Team identify nest sites they are asking the public to report any sightings or calls of curlew over the next few weeks in counties Mayo and Roscommon.

Please contact James Owens (083 831747213) or Brian Hughes (089 2280381) from the Curlew Conservation team in east Mayo and north Roscommon.

You may also email national project manager Hubert at (

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