2019 Irish breeding season shows increased chick productivity

The Curlew Conservation Programme, managed by the National Parks & Wildlife Service, has been operating in Ireland for 3 breeding seasons now, since 2017. Seven areas have Curlew Action Teams (CATs) working with landowners and other stakeholders to help Curlew rear their chicks. We are glad to report that the breeding productivity has increased year-on-year since the CCP began.

Overall, 2019 was a positive year in terms of the number of young Curlew reared in the areas covered by the Curlew Conservation Programme. Of the 41 pairs for which breeding was confirmed in 2019, at least 25 reached hatching stage (61%). A minimum of 19 pairs produced fledglings (possibly others did so but were not recorded), so the breeding success rate was at least 43%. The total number of juveniles recorded to have fledged was at least 33, but again may have been more. This represents a breeding productivity of 0.805 fledglings/breeding pair, which is more almost twice the threshold of 0.425 fledglings/pair required for a stable population according to Irish specific data (A. Lauder, unpubl. data) and greater than the threshold of 0.48-0.62 previously calculated by Grant et al. (1999). The national survey (2015-2016) estimated breeding productivity at the time may have been as low as 0.15, while the first year of the CCP (2017) saw a breeding productivity of 0.38 and in 2018, it was 0.43. However, the number of confirmed breeding pairs in the areas covered by the CATs since 2017 has declined from 46 in 2017 to 41 in 2019. Obviously the population in those areas cannot be stabilised or increased until the young birds that are now beginning to fledge return to recruit to the breeding population. A natural lag period. The fact that the number of chicks being reared is increasing, gives hope that what has been a calamitous decline is being arrested and in future that the population will stabilise and even grow. But obviously, the productivity needs to be maintained at consistently high levels into the future and the threats and pressures that have led to the dramatic decrease in the first place, and which are still present, need to be negated. Hopefully our approach will continue to bear fruit going forward and it is hoped that this model can be replicated in other parts of the country also.

Further information on the NPWS Curlew Conservation Programme can be found here. The 2019 annual report is here: NPWS Curlew Conservation Programme Annual Report 2019 (PDF).

Barry O’Donoghue Ph.D. M.Agr.Sc. B.Agr.Sc.
NPWS Agri-Ecology

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