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Threatened Species - Stone Curlew

The stone curlew is a rare and declining species, numbers of which have fallen by 85% in the past 50 years, and more than 50% since 1960. It is now largely restricted to two areas of the country, Breckland and Wessex, where in recent years the species has adapted to breeding on open arable land. The current UK population is estimated at 150-160 pairs.

The Stone curlew is a migratory bird of dry, stony, open ground such as heathland and acid grassland., It is largely crepuscular or nocturnal and nests in scrapes on patches of bare earth. It is mainly active at dusk, hence it is difficult to catch sight of. Its presence is more easily recognised from its distinctive call.

It is protected under Schedule 1 of Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 Annex 1 of 1979 EC Birds Directive and Appendix II of the Bern Convention.

Factors causing loss or decline:

  • Loss of semi-natural grasslands to arable farming, and reduced grazing by livestock and rabbits on the remaining grasslands;
  • Nest destruction in arable crops due to farming operations, such as mechanical hoeing.
  • Predation by foxes in semi-natural habitats;
  • Changes in agricultural practices resulting in fewer crops retaining an open structure until June or July;
  • Egg collecting;
  • Collisions with utility lines and fences;
  • Shooting in European countries while on migration.
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