IT has been a record breeding year for one of Northern Ireland’s most endangered bird species.
The RSPB NI has said that 69 curlew chicks were found in the Glenwherry area of the Antrim Plateau last year, more than doubling the number in 2021.
At least 11 more were also fledged in the RSPB’s Lough Erne reserve.
With less than 200 pairs of the “iconic species” left in Northern Ireland, the RSPB praised the work of farmers, landowners and charity workers who carefully managed the natural habitat.
Katie Gibb, Conservation Officer for RSPB NI working on the Antrim Plateau said the number of individual chicks that made it to fledge was “over and above anything that we ever thought was possible.”
Known for their distinctive call and silhouette, curlew numbers in Northern Ireland have dropped by 82 per cent since 1987 due to factors like habitat destruction and loss of eggs to predators.
Without intervention, the RSPB has predicted they would vanish from the north within ten years.
Notoriously hard to find, protecting their nesting sites has required meticulous land management.
Ms Gibb added: “It really is a case of every chick counts when it comes to curlew in Northern Ireland. This year saw us install one of the highest number of targeted nest fences at a single site in the UK. The fences, and knowledge of the pairs gathered from previous seasons, have been a game-changer for curlew conservation on our site, and allowed us to see an increase in hatching rates from around 40 per cent to 70 per cent, marking a real turning of the tide for curlew conservation on the Antrim Plateau.?"