Third ever Curlew recovery in Poland

There are remarkably few records of movements of ringed Curlew between the UK and Poland, indeed the BTO website only records the following two, out of nearly 1,800 recoveries of this species:

FV 42986Adult09.08.78Camel estuary, Wadebridge, Cornwall, UK 50.31N 04.50W
Long dead23.07.79Drawski Mlyn, Poland 52.52N 16.06E
EN 02280First year25.08.09Borety, Lichnowy, Poland54.07N 18.52E
(colour rings seen)
26.10.10Pegwell Bay, Ramsgate, UK51.18N 01.22E

The ringing and finding locations of both these birds were close to the Baltic coast, and the birds were recorded in Poland in July or August, suggesting that they were on migration from northern breeding sites to wintering areas along the Atlantic seaboard.

FA 95802Adult14.12.15Usk estuary, Newport, Wales, UK51.31 N 02.59W
(colour rings seen)
19.04.18Trzyrzecze, Brzozówka Valley, NE Poland53.31 N, 23.10E

This bird was seen and recognised from its colour rings again near the Usk estuary on 15 January 2016, and then again from 19 to 26 April 2018 (see picture below). Note that this bird was recorded not in autumn near the Baltic coast, but far inland in northeast Poland, close to the Polish border with Belarus. It had been ringed by a BTO team studying possible effects of tidal lagoons on the Severn estuary near Newport.

It so happened that another bird from the December 2015/January 2016 catch on the Usk estuary had recently been reported (in May 2018) in Finland; there are very many recoveries of British-ringed Curlews in Finland (an enormous 128) or of Finnish ringed birds recovered in UK (an even greater 238). Our immediate reaction therefore was that this bird was perhaps on its way to breeding areas in Finland. But extensive email exchanges with the Polish observers, who are carrying out an EU-funded project (aiming to protect nesting Curlews in Poland by interacting with farmers on breeding meadows, and by captive rearing of young birds, or ‘head-starting’) revealed that the bird had behaved like a nesting bird, and had exhibited courtship behaviour. Furthermore they reported that another colour-ringed bird from the Usk had been seen in a neighbouring area of Poland (better photos required to identify exactly which individual – hopefully next year); and (biggest surprise of all!), that four of their own colour-ringed Curlews, equipped with satellite tags, were currently wintering in southeast England (see photos of release of the satellite ringed birds, and map of the route taken). We await further details of the ringing and recovery data for these four birds.

Release of a satellite-tagged bird on the breeding grounds in Poland


Route taken by a satellite-tagged bird from Poland to southern England

The Polish projects have excellent background information on their projects at; for the English version, just click on the Union Jack.

So, it suddenly appears that, whereas we previously thought there was little or no exchange of breeding Curlews birds between Poland and UK, there are in fact regular exchanges: further study of the colour-ringing and satellite data will show just on what scale this occurs: keep watching this space!

Ah, but wait a minute: all those movement of Curlews between UK and breeding sites in Finland (and for that matter Sweden too – there are 86 recoveries in UK of Swedish ringed Curlews and 40 recoveries in Sweden of British ringed Curlews). Surely some of the Finnish or Swedish birds must get recovered in Poland on their way to the Atlantic coast breeding grounds? Check with the Finnish and Swedish ringing atlases, (data kindly provided by the Finnish and Swedish ringing offices), and……  quite crazy results: there is not a single recovery of a Finnish-ringed Curlew in any of the states of the north-eastern Baltic – neither in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania or Poland: all, but all, of the many ringed Finnish Curlews on migration follow the western (Swedish) Baltic coast to Denmark, then move on to winter on the Atlantic seaboard, mainly in UK and France (where there is still this coming winter an open shooting season for Curlews). The same is true of Swedish-ringed Curlews; no recoveries whatsoever in the eastern Baltic. Extraordinary that there should be such different migration routes for birds wintering in the same area! More research needed to find out why!

Mike Smart
On behalf of the Curlew Forum (for more information on breeding Curlews in lowland Britain, see )

Leave a comment