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Curlew champion meets his match

19 June 2014

Kirsty Nutt
Communications Officer

A farm that is home to one of Scotland’s fastest declining species got a visit from the MSP who has stepped up to be its champion today.

Lewis McDonald has been an MSP since 1999 and has represented North East Scotland since 2011. In 2013, he became curlew species champion.

 “Championing any species is a serious business, most especially when it is such a distinctive bird as the curlew. I was delighted to see many curlews up close, to see some of their young and to see where they breed. Protecting such species and habitats is vital to the kind of Scotland which will be enjoyed by future generations,” said Lewis Macdonald, Labour MSP for North East Scotland. “I would pay tribute to the tireless work of conservationists and the RSPB, and I am delighted that we have farmers and landowners in the North East who appreciate the value of protecting the places which these species need to thrive. I look forward to supporting these initiatives in the years ahead.”

Curlews, known locally as whaups, are Europe’s largest wading bird. They are recognised by their long down-curved bills and evocative bubbling song. They are also one of Europe’s most threatened birds, and are listed as globally near-threatened on the IUCN Red List. The British Isles, and in particular Scotland, are a stronghold for curlews, hosting as much as a quarter of the global population, however this important Scottish population is in trouble and has declined by over 50% in the last 15 years. Being home to nearly 25% of the world's curlews means that the UK has a responsibility for them, and that efforts we make to safeguard them will go along way to securing the global population.

Mr McDonald joined staff from RSPB Scotland on a site-visit to a farm in upper Donside to see first-hand the work being carried out by the RSPB and the local farming community, as well hearing about issues facing the bird both locally and globally.

The farm visited is one that the RSPB has been working with for several years to monitor farmland wading birds, which along with curlews includes lapwings, redshanks, snipe and oystercatchers. Of 22 sites surveyed in 2013, this farm had more pairs of waders than any other. With 80 pairs in total, numbers of farmland waders were high enough for the farm to be regarded as a key wader site.

Hywel Maggs, from RSPB Scotland said: “Curlews have suffered declines across many parts of Scotland, largely due to agricultural intensification, tree-planting in open landscapes, and nest predation. In areas with important curlew populations, such as where we visited today, it is critical we minimise these threats. That means working with farmers to maintain curlew habitats, with support from agri-environment schemes, and opposing new woodland on or close to important breeding grounds. Sadly, there are many pressures on landuse and the suitability of an area for waders such as curlews can quickly change. It’s great to see a local MSP taking an interest in these issues and speaking up for curlews in Holyrood. We hope that this will contribute to the safeguarding of their future.”


For further information and photgraphs, please contact:

Kirsty Nutt, RSPB Communications Officer, on 01224 627869 or 07711385595.


 Editor’s notes:

1.     There are currently 68 species champions looking after 85 species.


2.     The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ provides taxonomic, conservation status and distribution information on plants, fungi and animals that have been globally evaluated using the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria. This system is designed to determine the relative risk of extinction, and the main purpose of the IUCN Red List is to catalogue and highlight those plants and animals that are facing a higher risk of global extinction (i.e. those listed as Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulnerable). The IUCN Red List also includes information on plants, fungi and animals that are categorized as Extinct or Extinct in the Wild; on taxa that cannot be evaluated because of insufficient information (Data Deficient); and on plants, fungi and animals that are either close to meeting the threatened thresholds or that would be threatened were it not for an ongoing specific conservation programme (Near Threatened).


3.     The RSPB is working with Birdlife International partners to look at the causes of decline for curlews and trial possible solutions.


4.     The RSPB is the UK’s largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations.