Curlew

Last year I promised that I would spend more time out on the moors which make up a lot of the higher ground in this part of Yorkshire. The moors tend to be above the tree line so are windswept rough land generally grazed by sheep. This makes them the perfect habitat for the UK and Europe’s largest wading bird the curlew. They are instantly recognisable by their long down curved bill, long legs and their evocative and haunting call.

Curlew in flight

Curlew in flight

They return to the moors in spring to nest between the tussocks of rough grass, setting the nest down and hidden from predators. They are territorial at this time of year but will react as a group if there is a threat in the area, flying low and loudly to discourage the perceived predator.

Calling curlew

Calling curlew

Adult birds will forage for worms, insects and caterpillars with their large beak while the young need areas close by of damp or waterlogged ground to allow them to forage. Both parents will share the incubation of the eggs taking turns to sit on up to 4 eggs which are generally laid in early May. Once the chicks hatch the female will leave the rearing to the male. The eggs hatch in around 30 days and the chicks fledge a further 10 days later.

The female is larger than the male with a larger beak, in the picture below the female is on the left and the male on the right (I think).

Curlew pair.

Curlew pair.

They can be long lived birds living over 20 years but they are in serious decline with a 54% fall in numbers since the early 1990’s. There seemed to be good numbers on both the moors I visited in May so hopefully that trend is reversing and they can start to rebuild the population.

Curlew in full cry

Curlew in full cry