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13 November 2014

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You are in: Wiltshire > Nature > Nature Features > Salisbury Stonecurlew population smashes target

Stonecurlew on Salisbury Plain

Stonecurlew chicks on Salisbury Plain

Salisbury Stonecurlew population smashes target

One of Britain's most threatened birds thrives on Salisbury Plain

Great news for fans of the Stonecurlew. The bird, which is one of Britain's most threatened, has reached a conservation milestone, seven years ahead of target.

This summer's population count by the RSPB, revealed that in 2008 351 pairs nested in Britain. Which means that the Stonecurlew has met its 2015 Biodiversity Action Plan target of 350 pairs, well ahead of time.

The crow sized wading bird is centred on Salisbury Plain. Easily recognisable from its large head, long yellow legs and relatively long wings and tail. Active at night, its large yellow eyes enable it to locate food when it's dark, and gets its name from its curlew like call.

Stonecurlew on Salisbury Plain

Adult Stonecurlew on Salisbury Plain

But despite numbers being on the increase the RSPB also revealed a dramatic drop in the number of young birds being fledged. 

On average of every 100 pairs of Stonecurlews, only 49 chicks survived, the lowest level of success since at least 1988. 

The RSPB believes this is because the Stonecurlew likes open ground, and the combination of a wet spring and summer, prompting grass growth made it hard for the birds to find insects on bare ground this together with the scrapping of set-aside, where farmland is left un-cropped, had a significant impact on this year’s breeding success.

Since 1990, the UK’s Stonecurlew population has steadily risen, due to wildlife-friendly farming schemes, like Environmental Stewardship and set-aside.

However, this success could be partially undermined by the scrapping of set-aside earlier this year as it provided the ideal conditions for these birds to nest and feed.

Phil Sneldrake is the Curlew Project Officer for Wiltshire's RSPB he said:

"It's really encouraging that the Curlew population is growing. The increase is mostly due to the good work of farmers and land owners. Long may it continue."

last updated: 01/12/2008 at 11:12
created: 28/11/2008

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