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Wales Action Plan for the Recovery of Curlew

This Wales Action Plan for the Recovery of Curlew was prepared by Gylfinir Cymru / Curlew Wales at the recommendation of Welsh Government to promote the conservation of Eurasian curlew in Wales. The goals and objectives of this Action Plan can be achieved only if a long-term commitment is made to support the actions recommended herein. Alignment of these goals and objectives will require the continued cooperation of all four Governments in the UK. Within Wales, the shared resources and cooperative involvement of Welsh Government, Natural Resources Wales, National Park Authorities, industry, academia, environmental non-governmental organisations, farming unions and individuals will be required throughout the recovery period.

The Executive Summary of the Action Plan is below, and the full plan can be viewed here or in booklet version here.

  • In common with much of the UK and many other parts of Europe, all of Wales’ grassland breeding waders: Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata), Common Redshank (Tringa totanus), European Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria) and Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) are in significant decline both numerically and spatially - a result of a combination of three significant pressures: habitat loss, unfavourable habitat management and nest/chick predation.

  • The Curlew is a highly migratory species in urgent need of coordinated UK and Wales conservation action. In the absence of contemporary survey data, estimates of the Curlew breeding population range from 400 (extrapolation from a small sample repeat survey) to no more than 1700 breeding pairs (extrapolation from Bird Atlas all-Wales resurvey). Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) data indicate that the breeding population of Curlew in Wales is declining at a rate of 6% per year.

  • Curlew is predicted to be on the brink of extinction as a viable breeding species in Wales by 2033. Due to the significance of this emergency, Curlew is now considered to be the most pressing bird conservation priority in Wales.

  • This Wales Action Plan for the Recovery of Curlew sets out a framework to conserve breeding Curlew over a ten-year programme of action (2021 – 2031) and to stabilise the decline in breeding Curlew with the aim of preventing Welsh extinction.

  • This Action Plan is designed to align actions for recovery with the AEWA International Species Action for Curlew (to be reviewed in 2025). The Wales Action Plan for Curlew will be reviewed and evaluated annually by Gylfinir Cymru / Curlew Wales (a Welsh curlew action group), with a mid-term appraisal in 2026 to measure progress. Recommended by Welsh Government, this Plan is aimed at preventing the disappearance of breeding Curlew from Wales as the foundation of a longer-term vision to restore a sustainable population.

  • The framework for action has been developed to internationally agreed standards including the monitoring and evaluation of implementation, identifying threats and measurable intervention/activities.

  • Focused conservation action will be directed at a network of 12 candidate Important Curlew Areas (ICAs) in Wales. Each ICA will have a lead organisation and community champion responsible for the delivery of intervention measures and the assessment, monitoring and reporting against set performance criteria. Further info on the ICAs can be found below.

  • Gylfinir Cymru / Curlew Wales will seek funding to appoint an all-Wales Curlew Programme Manager, initially for three years, to support the network of ICA lead organisations, local champions and communities, be an ambassador for Curlew and to maximise favourable habitat management opportunities across Wales.

  • To determine baseline demographic metrics (e.g. population size, hatching success and breeding success) standardised monitoring will be undertaken through a volunteer programme of citizen science.

  • An ICA Working Group will be formed to establish or strengthen local networks of farming communities and other land managers in each ICA to facilitate collaborative working and involvement and to develop a strong community ethic across the ICA network to enable knowledge exchange, the sharing of progress and a ‘can do’ approach to Curlew conservation.

  • Gylfinir Cymru / Curlew Wales will seek appropriate levels of funding to implement the required intervention measures (habitat management and predator control) within the ICA network and where appropriate outside the ICAs.

  • A commissioned study, currently in review, identifies the multiple benefits of curlew conservation, framed in the context of political thinking, that demonstrates wider socio-economic and environmental benefits.

  • It is critical that policy and strategy, such as the proposed Sustainable Farm Scheme, Future Wales (the National Development Framework), NRW Area Statements etc, that are designed to ensure space to live, work and play, food production, and sustainable use of natural resources, enable Curlews to flourish.

  • The ICA Working Group will identify and mitigate pressures and constraints acting on the ICA network population and use these assessments to identify the scale of management required to secure appropriate and sustainable management through Government policies. For example, it will look to market payments linked to curlew and environmental goods, and/or to non-public monetary funded projects (e.g. LIFE Nature, NLHF) to tackle key constraints.


Important Curlew Areas

A large and coherent network of Curlew-friendly breeding landscapes is required across Wales. To maximise opportunities of success for Curlew recovery in Wales this plan will adopt a targeted and focused approach, taking action in 12 candidate Important Curlew Areas (ICAs) (see table and maps below). These lie in three NRW Area Statements (North-West, North-East and Mid-Wales) and in combination represent possibly as much as 65% of the Welsh Curlew breeding population. Although the identified ICA network will form the focus of recovery efforts, any land with breeding Curlew should be eligible to receive land management payments to provide favourable habitat that meet this species' ecological needs.

The 12 Important Curlew Areas reflect our current understanding of breeding Curlew populations, their range and structure in Wales. They have been selected by partners of Gylfinir Cymru / Curlew Wales and are built around a combination of local knowledge, contemporary surveys and population modelling, and locations where motivated people and organisations are available for the necessary action at sufficient scale to conserve breeding Curlew. We consider Curlew recovery across the Welsh ICA network to be important for maintaining geographic and ecological representation of breeding Curlew, and as a mechanism to safeguard the integrity of Curlew genetic variability. If new evidence emerges that additional ICAs or boundary changes are necessary for the long-term viability of the species, the Welsh ICA network will be revised accordingly.

The table below shows the breeding Curlew population estimates (number of breeding pairs) for Important Curlew Areas in Wales. Note that (1) the figures and confidence values are based on either contemporary survey data (green shaded cells), modelled estimates (orange shaded cells) or expert judgement (grey shaded cells), and that (2) South Clwyd Mountains consists of Llantysilio Mountains (survey: 7 pairs) and Dee Valley (model: 33 pairs) and Llyn Morwynion (model: 11 pairs). The accompanying maps shows the location of the Important Curlew Areas. 

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