Country Infos

Country Profile Manager:
James Moran
Atlantic Technological University
Phone: +353 86 6063949

The Irish Breeding Curlew EIP




The project aims to develop solutions to population declines in Curlew Numenius arquata, through the development and trial of agri-environment measures which address habitat degradation and depredation by predators, on various habitat types in the Republic of Ireland. Farmers in the project have a range of options available to address the factors affecting Curlew.

The options available to farmers include: A Results-based Curlew Habitat Option; A Delayed Mowing Option; A Capital Works Programme; A Conservation Keepering Agri-environmental Scheme; Curlew Knowledge Sharing Groups; and A Temporary Electric Fencing Option (to erect a predator proof fence around known nest sites).

Farmers are supported with ongoing specialist advisory and training to help them achieve the aims of the options they have entered. The project is also supported by fulltime Curlew Keepers to protect Curlew breeding attempts, annual population and productivity monitoring is undertaken.

Curlew Numenius arquata

Location of the scheme

several regions

South Lough Corrib, Co. Galway; the South Leitrim Bogs area, Co. Leitrim and North Co. Longford.

Border and West Region 

Duration of the scheme

Since: 2018
Until: 2021

Objective(s) of the scheme / project

  • Biodiversity
  • Cultural heritage
  • Landscape amenities, including recreation, tourism
  • Erosion control
  • Water quality
  • Other

The Curlew EIP’s main objectives are to design and trail agri-environmental measure to maintain or enhance Curlew breeding habitat and reduce the impact of depredation by predators.

The project is operating in two distinct landscapes, Natura seasonally flooded wet grassland sites in Co. Galway, and high nature value farmland in Co. Leitrim / Longford adjacent to bogs (including NHA’s).

While stabilising or increasing the Irish Curlew population is the main objective, the project also serves to maintain and enhance species rich Natura and HNV grasslands, provide for other Red Listed Birds Of Conservation Concern, such as Lapwing, Redshank, Snipe, Skylark and Meadow Pipit; provides carbon services through the protection and enhancement of carbon rich wet soils; and help to safeguard water quality through restrictions on fertiliser and herbicide use.

Which habitats or species are in the focus of the scheme / project?

  • Habitats (incl. habitats of Fauna-Flora-Habitat-Directive (FFH-D.))
  • Species (incl. species of FFH-D. and Birds Directive (BD))
  • Landscape elements
  • Wetland
  • Others

Breeding Curlew are in danger of extinction in the Republic of Ireland with only 138 pairs recorded during the 2015-2017 NPWS national survey, an estimated 96-99% decline since the 1970s.

Curlew is Red listed on Birds of Conservation Concern in Ireland and represents one of the highest conservation priorities in Ireland. The global population of Eurasian Curlew has been classified as 'near threatened' (with extinction) by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to sustained and rapid population declines.

A bird of farmland, bogs and the uplands, Curlew typically breed in wet or marshy habitats including bogs, fens, moors and damp grasslands; outside the breeding season they are primarily found in muddy, coastal habitats.

In Ireland they are most likely to be found on peatland habitats, unimproved or semi-improved grassland (particularly rushy pastures) wetlands and other open habitats. Curlew avoid forests and woodland, built-up areas, improved grassland with a uniform sward and areas with active peat extraction. In Ireland, they are not known to nest in arable areas.

Habitat loss and degradation (as a result of agricultural intensification, land drainage and afforestation), predation, and human disturbance have been identified as the primary threats to breeding populations in Ireland.


Which indicators are used?

  • Habitats (incl FFH and BD)
  • Landscape Elements
  • Physical structures (e.g. dead wood, presence of brushwood, hollow trees, tall grass)
  • Other

Habitat loss and degradation is a key factor in the decline of Curlew. In addition, depredation by predators resulting in very low levels of productivity (with many pairs failing at the nest or chick stage and very few fledged young), is now a major factor in their decline.

The Curlew EIP addresses these factors by ensuring the maintenance or production of safe, suitable breeding habitat and the removal of predator habitat through the various habitat-based options and the Capital Works Programme. Factors relating to sward structure, suitable chick feeding habitat and predator habitat are all indicated for, including damaging operations where these apply. Capital Works are linked to indicators and incentivised through their ability to increase field scores.

Other factors that cannot easily be indicated for, such as damage to nests or chicks by stock and tractor operations, and the spreading of fertiliser (which promotes vigorous grass growth and changes grass species composition, affecting both sward suitability and how well eggs are camouflaged from predators), are contained in the schemes Terms and Conditions.

The presence or productivity of Curlew are not indicated for as they occur in very low numbers and can be affected by other factors outside a farmers control, such as weather. In addition, the exact nesting location can change year to year and both adult and chicks can range widely when feeding. Therefore, the provision of abundant, safe, suitable breeding habitat is the focus of the scheme. However, the project monitors the population and productivity each year.

The control of predators during the Curlew breeding season is carried out directly by the project and through the development and trial of the Conservation Keepering Agri-environmental Scheme.

Design of scheme / project

  • Hybrid result based payment with complementary management based payments

Hybrid result based payment with complementary management based payments

All suitable Curlew breeding habitat within the project area is eligible to enter the scheme. The main habitat-based option relates to grazing land, and is a hybrid results-based option, with complementary prescriptive elements contained in the schemes Terms and Conditions, where these elements cannot be adequately indicated for.

Complementary action-based payments (Capital Works payments) designed to improve or restore suitable breeding habitat or reduce predator habitat are an important supporting element to the habitat option and can influence higher scores through linked indicators. These Capital Works payments can also be carried out as a stand-alone option and on land that is not classed as agricultural land, or under the control of a farmer. This is an important element, allowing for landscape level habitat enhancement, especially around key breeding sites.

Other options such as the Delayed Mowing Option are based on a flat rate payment and a payment for the farmers time to survey for Curlew prior to mowing. While the Conservation Keepering Option, is paid based on the farmer time.


Payment for the habitat options can be made on all land, provided it is declared for BPS (however it does not need to be in receipt of payment). Capital works payments can either be made to a farmer or directly to a contractor by the project (allowing for works to be carried out on land belonging to landowners who are not actively farming).

Payments for the Conservation Keepering Scheme are based on farmers time, and therefore can be made relating to work on all land, regardless of declaration for or receipt of BPS.

By which fund(s) is the scheme / project implemented?

  • Other measures of Rural Development

The project is co-funded by the European Union and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine through the RDP European Innovation Partnership (EIP) Operational Group initiative.

How are the incentives (payment levels) calculated?

  • Other

The payment levels are based on:

  • Opportunity cost and transaction costs.
  • Average contractor costs, or cost of materials.
  • Time for farmers own labour.

Is there a top up in case of reaching the goals?

  • No

At present there are no top up payments. The results-based element of this scheme is highly reactive to management on a year-to-year basis and therefore a maximum payment in one year, dose not guarantee a maximum payment the following year.

It is anticipated that a bonus payment, similar to the Hen Harry Project, will be introduced in the future where birds successfully fledged chicks.


How many hectares are in the scheme?

  • 100 – 500

How many farmers take part in the scheme?

  • Less than 50

How are participating farmers supervised/advised?

  • Advisors visits (obligatory)
  • Advisors visits (optional)
  • Advice by telephone
  • Information documents (pamphlets, reports, etc.)
  • Information meetings/workshops (obligatory)
  • Information meetings/workshops (voluntary)
  • Other


  • Participation in Curlew Knowladge Sharing Group meetings
  • Submission of data recording sheet for the Conservation Keepering Scheme


Are there any evaluation results?

  • Yes

The objective of the project is to develop and trail argi-environmental solutions to the decline of breeding Curlew. With habitat related elements there is a time lag between their introduction and the influence they can have on population growth.

Due to the critical status of Curlew in Ireland, the project also carries out predator control around known breeding sites, and monitors Curlew population and productivity.


Below are the population and productivity results for 2019 and 2020. To note, in 2020 population and productivity data is incomplete as staff were grounded during a large portion of the breeding season due to Covid-19 restrictions. Productivity is considered to have been negatively affected due the absence of the Curlew Keepers during this critical time in the breeding season.




Total no. Pairs

No. Pairs Hatched

Total no. Fledged Chicks*

Total Productivity all pairs

Total Productivity by pairs confirmed breeding


South Lough Corrib Project area














South Leitrim Bogs Area













  * Where pairs were recorded as having successfully fledged chicks, but fledglings were not seen a value of one fledgling per pair was attributed.


Baseline data is collected on field scores both prior to entering the scheme and on an annual basis. Predator populations are also monitored each year.


Annual Reports available on the project website


Contact person

Kathryn Finney

Birdwatch Ireland, Crank House, Banagher, Co Offaly.

Twitter @CurlewEIP