Northern Ireland

NI's curlew joins red list as concerns for its future grow

Curlew Image copyright Andy Hay
Image caption The curlew has been added to the red list of species on the decline

One of Northern Ireland's best-known birds has been added to a list of those that are giving major concern to conservationists.

The curlew, Europe's largest wading bird, is recognisable by its long down-curved bill and evocative call.

It has been added to the red list in a survey of the 244 regularly occurring birds in the UK.

The RSPBNI said it could now be considered the "UK's most pressing conservation issue".

The curlew has suffered a severe population decline and has now been included on the red list of the British Birds of Conservation Concern 4.

There has been an 87% decline in its population in Northern Ireland between the mid-1980s and 2013.

The Antrim hills and County Fermanagh are two areas where the bird is most likely to be spotted.

Fermanagh holds 10% of the entire population on the island of Ireland.

Glenwherry in County Antrim is the only other place that holds what is considered a viable breeding population.

The number of pairs there has recovered a little in recent years and now stands at 39 pairs, down from 80 pairs in the mid-1980s.

Other birds seen in Northern Ireland and included on the red list include the Greenland white-fronted goose and the pochard, a type of duck.

It is thought the numbers of pochard are dropping at Lough Neagh because milder winters mean they do not have to migrate so far south.

The puffin has also been added to the red list. However, Northern Ireland's important colony on Rathlin is fairly stable.

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