Mary Colwell says curlews are declining across almost all of their UK and Irish range, but there is hope for the largest and much-loved wading bird
In response to your article (New initiative aims to save curlew from extinction in Wales, 22 November), John Davies (Letters, 26 November) suggested that the decrease in Welsh curlews might be explained by a move to North Yorkshire. In fact, adult curlews return each year to the same breeding site throughout their lives, therefore relocating to other areas is extremely unlikely. In another letter, Keith Langton commented that they are still numerous by the River Dee in Dumfries and Galloway. This area of Scotland has seen a devastating drop in curlew numbers of around 80% since the mid-1990s, mainly due to afforestation on their breeding grounds.
Curlews are declining across almost all of their UK and Irish range – and the stark losses seen in Wales, throughout Ireland and across southern England are real and of deep concern. They are suffering because of loss of habitat, frequent grass cutting for silage, and unsustainable predation rates of their eggs and chicks. The situation is so serious that the journal British Birds has referred to it as the most urgent bird conservation issue in the UK.
The UK and Ireland have a special responsibility for conserving curlews. Up to 30% of the world population nests here, and a quarter of the mainland Europe population come to our shores for the winter.
Governments have recognised the urgent need for action: Ireland has a curlew conservation programme, England launched the Curlew Recovery Partnership this year, and now National Resources Wales has created Gylfinir Cymru/Curlew Wales. These organisations offer some hope for our largest and much-loved wading bird.
Chair, Curlew Recovery Partnership,England
• Have an opinion on anything you’ve read in the Guardian today? Please email us your letter and it will be considered for publication.