Movement of Curlews between East Anglia and the Severn Estuary


An unfamiliar colour-ringed Curlew was sighted by Scott Petrek of WWT on 19 February 2021 at Slimbridge. The combination of colours did not fit with any of the combinations regularly seen on the Severn estuary. The bird was carrying a blue ring on its left tibia,  a green ring over and orange ring on its right tibia, and an orange over a white ring on its left tarsus (see the picture below taken by Scott). The orange over white rings on the left tarsus identify the bird as one marked by a BTO project.

After consultation with BTO project leaders, it transpired that the bird had been ringed in Breckland by Harry Ewing, who has provided the following information and the picture below, taken at RAF Honington in Suffolk. It was a male, caught, colour-ringed and GPS-tagged (the tag will have fallen off long ago) on 14 May 2019. This was the first resighting away from Breckland. In 2019, it successfully hatched two to four eggs, but lost both chicks at around two weeks old; in 2020, it successfully hatched four eggs and one chick fledged, which was also colour-ringed.

It seems likely that this bird had spent the winter somewhere to the southwest of Slimbridge (along the Bristol Channel? In south Wales? Possibly in southern Ireland?) and was on its spring migration back to the breeding area in Suffolk – Curlews are known to be highly faithful to both breeding and wintering grounds. So it will be interesting to know how quickly it gets back to Suffolk.

Although this is the first re-sighting of a Breckland bird on the Severn estuary, there is one earlier recovery in the opposite direction, again demonstrating fidelity to wintering and breeding areas. A wintering adult Curlew was caught and colour-ringed on the Severn estuary between Lydney and Chepstow on 27 September 2011, and was seen again many times in this same area, every winter from 2011/12 to 2018/19. In June 2014 it was identified by its colour rings near Thetford, where it was presumed to be breeding, and was recorded there again in summer 2019.

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