Environmental correlates of breeding abundance and population change of Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata in Britain

Capsule: Across Britain, breeding Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata are less numerous and have shown greater population declines in areas with more arable farming, woodland cover and higher generalist predator abundance.

Aims: We present the first national-scale analysis of the potential drivers of Curlew population change in Britain, which is needed to guide conservation action for this globally near-threatened, declining species.

Methods: Breeding Bird Survey data and environmental predictors were used to model variation in Curlew abundance in 1995–99 and 2007–11, and population change between these periods.

Results: Arable farming and woodland cover were negatively associated with Curlew abundance and population declines. Curlew abundance was positively associated with extent of protected area coverage and gamebird numbers. Abundance and population change were positively associated with cooler temperatures and higher summer rainfall, but negatively associated with numbers of generalist predators.

Conclusions: We found support for the negative effects of intensive agriculture, forestry, increases in generalist predator populations and climate warming on Curlew abundance and population change. Effective site protection and measures to reduce generalist predator abundance may be important conservation measures, together with improving breeding habitat quality in the wider countryside.