Cinnamon-brown underwings visible in flight. Curlews normally live for around 20 years (one record-breaker made it to 31) and they generally don’t breed until they’re at least two years old. UK breeding is the number of pairs breeding annually. That said, the curlew is one of my favourite birds, and hearing their wailing bubbling song return to the moors each spring is always a special treat. The female lays three or four gorgeous olive-green eggs, each about the size of a goose egg. Coward (1910) wrote that they were most abundant on passage, but at all seasons Curlews may be seen on the mudflats and sandbanks of the estuaries of the Dee and Mersey. • Assess an area before undertaking gardening or maintenance. Feeding takes place at night. In the winter, curlews gather in large flocks (often several hundred) along muddy coasts and estuaries, as well as on rocky shores, coastal wetlands and inland lakeshores. Luckily, at this point the male steps in to help with incubation, with mum and dad often splitting the shifts between day and night so that both have time to feed. Many birds form flocks, but only a few form flocks that fly together. Curloooo! Males and females look similar, but if you get close enough you can normally tell a female by her even longer, more curved beak (and even more grumpy look) – and if you see a pair together you’ll notice that the female is quite a bit bigger too. Look for them in their breeding habitat from April to July. Coastal numbers build up from July and reach a peak in January and February. As you say Andre, curlew are an iconic species and it is so important that the UK looks after its internationally very important population, with the Eskimo curlew and the Slender billed curlew having been lost to world wide extinction in living memory. The amazing flight displays and bubbling “curloooo-aloo-aloo” calls you can witness in the spring are the male’s way of displaying his wares and claiming his territory. About 10 days ago I was at Seasalter on the Swale in Kent and saw pretty good numbers of curlew on the intertidal mudflats there. • Do not approach nesting curlews, especially with a dog. I love to imagine the map inside a curlew’s head – how do they remember where to go? From around February onwards, curlew flocks start to break up and return inland to breed, looking for open damp areas like moorland, bog, damp grassland, farmland and heath. Although curlews are particularly edgy and tough to catch, the cannon nets used to ensnare the birds do not harm them. The reserve has seen more than thirty species of wading birds. The starling population has fallen by more than 80 per cent in recent years, meaning they are now on the critical list of UK birds most at risk. Footage of a curlew in its natural habitat. • Do not place food near curlew nests (well-meaning but ill-advised). How do some species of birds in flocks perform their wonderful, graceful, synchronized movements? Curlews are very site-faithful, often spending the winter on the same stretch of coast each year and returning to the same field or patch of bog each spring. Feeding takes place at night. Bush stone-curlews remain reasonably common in the north of Australia, but have become rare in the less fertile south. During the breeding season, nesting birds will search for food in the vicinity of the nest site, while at other times, birds may travel large distances. For the next few weeks, the curlew family will move together over the fields and moors, foraging hungrily for insects and worms, until eventually, at around five weeks old, the chicks are big enough to fly. When I think of this, and realise that our grandchildren might never hear the magic of that wailing bubbling song, I feel even luckier to be a part of a project that is trying to halt the decline and ensure the recovery of this gorgeous bird. I always feel slightly sorry for curlews; that long turned-down beak always gives them a depressed, grumpy look. SC037654. It’s nesting season for our waterfowl too but what are the rules you need to follow for ducks, geese or swans? Long-billed Curlew: Very large sandpiper with brown mottled upperparts, buff-brown underparts with dark streaks and spots. This fantastic wetland site is located north of Southport town centre and has some of the best wildlife in the region. In a few lucky cases, the hard work pays off, and four weeks later the chicks hatch as little balls of brown and yellow fluff, with a stubby black beak and slender blue legs like a miniature ostrich. They have woven their existence into our consciousness, our art and culture and yet they are in trouble. Curlews are very site-faithful, often spending the winter on the same stretch of coast each year and returning to the same field or patch of bog each spring. Direct flight, steady, strong wing beats. * This map is intended as a guide. Researchers call these flight flocks, and they include geese and other water fowl that fly … During the breeding season, nesting birds will search for food in the vicinity of the nest site, while at other times, birds may travel large distances. We spend 90% of net income on conservation, public education and advocacy, The RSPB is a member of BirdLife International. From eating chocolate to attending an event, there are lots of ways you can support curlews. ), so if you’re lucky enough to see curlews near your home, they’re probably the same birds coming back year on year – how romantic! * This map is intended as a guide. In June and July, look out for funny-looking curlews with a clumsy flight and a rather short beak (it takes a while longer to grow that masterpiece), and you might be lucky enough to spot a recent fledgling learning to fly. Within a few hours of hatching, the brave wee things will leave the nest, pecking tasty insects off the plants and following their parents around for safety. Distinguishing them can be tricky at long range, but if you've got a good view and know what you're looking for, it shouldn't be too hard. See our toolkit for ways to campaign with us to protect nature and save wildlife. Whaup whaup! When birds fly in a flock, each individual bird is less likely to be captured by a predator, like a falcon. They also tend to pair up with the same partner each year (convenience or true love? Most record-breaking is their beak, which is around 15cm long – imagine carrying that around on your head. A film by Jan van IJken / www.janvanijken.comThe Short Film Showcase spotlights exceptional short videos created by filmmakers from around the web and selected by National Geographic editors. Find out how to identify a bird just from the sound of its singing with our bird song identifier playlist.