Sarah Sanders, Programme Manager for the Curlew Recovery Programme introduces Curlew Crisis Month which is happening across the UK this May.

After a bitter winter, curlews are returning to our hills for the breeding season. For many farmers the return of this long-legged wader with the distinctive down-turned bill heralds the start of spring. But in future springs could arrive without the distinctive bubbling “curlee curlee” call of the curlew. 

Spring sees curlews returning to their moorland homes. Photo credit Tim Melling.

Since the mid-1990s, the number of breeding curlews across the UK has nearly halved. The situation is gravest in Southern England where we believe there are less than 300 pairs remaining, Wales where they have declined by more than two-thirds and in Northern Ireland where four-fifths have vanished in the last few decades.

The main reason for this decline is poor breeding success, which in turn has been caused by the loss of the damp rough grassy habitat where curlews like to nest, as well as predation..Photo credit Tim Melling

As the UK is home to around a quarter of the world's breeding curlew population, we have a global responsibility to do something about it. Action needs to be taken now or we're going to see this much-loved bird disappear from its historic breeding areas.

This is why we have created Curlew Crisis Month. Over the course of May there will be a range of events and activities across the UK aimed at highlighting the plight of this much-loved bird and building support for its conservation.

Highlights include:

-       The Vanishing Song of the Curlew: a guided walk around RSPB Dove Stone where our peat bog restoration programme is helping curlews recover. (Sunday 6 May)

-       Whaap Night: an evening of live music in Lerwick, Shetland celebrating the long-billed bird. (Saturday 12 May)

-       Curlew Calling: an evening of music and poetry, at Hallbankgate Village Hall near RSPB Geltsdale in the North Pennines. (Saturday 19 May)

-       Curlew Cruise: a boat trip around the Lower Lough Erne islands, one of the last curlew strongholds in Northern Ireland. (Saturday 19 May)

-       Woods and Moors Dawn Chorus walk, an early morning adventure at Eastern Moors to experience the call of the curlew. (Sunday 27 May)

-       Curlew Moon at Hay Festival: Writer and conservationist Mary Colwell discusses her new book, Curlew Moon, joined by RSPB Global Conservation Director Martin Harper and curlew species champion and Welsh Assembly Member Mark Isherwood. (Friday 1 June)

We've also teamed up with Dave Williams from artisan chocolatier Mirrie Dancers in Shetland, who have created a limited-release batch of bespoke curlew chocolate eggs to support the RSPB's curlew conservation work. They're palm oil and soya lecithin free, making them doubly environmentally friendly. For each bag sold, an average donation of £1.49 will be made to the RSPB Curlew Recovery Programme.

Over the coming month, we’ll be telling stories about the efforts being made by a wide range of people to help save the curlew. We’ll hear from farmers who are making room for the birds on their land, the politicians who are fighting their corner in parliament and from our own staff, involved in our Curlew Recovery Programme.

There are now more ways than ever for you to help save the curlew. As well as attending Curlew Crisis Month events or indulging in curlew chocolate eggs, there are two important actions you can take:

  1. Donate to our Curlew Just Giving page. All the money will go directly to fund habitat management work, specifically designed to meet the needs of curlew

  2. Tell the UK Government that you want a farming system that produces food and restores nature: have your say on the future of our countryside by responding to the proposed plans for the future of farming.

 The future of curlews across the UK depends on our farmers making space for them on their land once again. They will only be able to do this if we have farming systems in each of our four nations that acknowledge the intrinsic link between farming and the environment, and support farmers financially for protecting nature.