It’s World Curlew Day today! And why do you need to know this? Well, apart from the fact that they are my favourite birds, they are struggling to survive. The UK has seen a 65% decline in curlews since 1970, and half of this has occurred in the last 20 years. They were once a common sight around the UK, but have been on the Red List of Endangered Species since 2015 – meaning that urgent action is needed to save them. It is hard to imagine the loss of such an iconic bird. Importantly, curlews are a ‘bioindicator species’, which means they indicate the overall health of the environments where they live, providing further evidence that we need to act urgently to reverse environmental decline.
You may never have seen a curlew, but you will probably have heard one. They have a range of highly evocative calls which you can listen to here on the BBC’s Tweet of the Day. If you watch television in the UK, then the call of these birds will most definitely have featured in the background noise accompanying many, many programmes you’ve seen. Pretty much anything that we watch which has been filmed in the countryside or at the coast, whether drama or documentary, seems to feature the call of curlews in the background.
A bit more information – the common curlew (Eurasian curlew: Numenius arquata) is the largest European wading bird – standing around 50-60cm tall with a wingspan of up to 1m. They tend to spend winters at the coast where you might see them in estuaries, searching for food with their long, graceful, curved beaks. In the summer they head to upland moorland habitats to breed. The curlew is a ground nesting bird but changes in land management practices and loss of habitat leaves eggs and chicks vulnerable to predation, and survival rates are now too low sustain their population.
Curlews are not only endangered in Europe – of the other seven species worldwide, two (the Eskimo and the Slender-Billed) are already assumed to be extinct – and two others are at risk of extinction.
If you are interested in learning more (and I really hope that you are) and in finding out how to help save these beautiful birds, you can find much more information at Curlew Action a charity which supports curlew recovery.
Meantime, here are some lovely photos (not taken by me!).
Photo credits: Tim Melling
While you are musing on the curlew, here is a recipe for an amazing Chocolate Orange cake. And yes, it is almost like eating a chocolate orange…..
Chocolate Orange Cake
150g softened unsalted butter
200g self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
50g caster sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
100g dark chocolate chips
3 teaspoons orange essence
- Preheat oven to 150 fan. Grease and line a 19cm cake tin
- Cream together butter and sugar. Mix in eggs with a tablespoon of flour.
- Mix in flour and baking powder followed by the orange essence. Finally, stir in the chocolate chips
- Bake for ~50 minutes until a skewer comes out clean