Duchy of Cornwall Dartmoor Curlew Project

The Dartmoor Curlew Conservation Initiative

The haunting call of the Curlew, once a familiar echo across Dartmoor, has become a poignant symbol of the challenges facing our native wildlife. Facing a dramatic decline nationally, the Curlew is now listed on the UK Birds of Conservation Concern's 'Red List'. Dartmoor stands as a critical sanctuary for one of the most southerly breeding populations of this iconic species, which has seen an 85% reduction in Devon since 1985.

Inspired by the dedicated interest of His Royal Highness, King Charles III, in Curlew conservation, efforts to monitor and protect these birds on Dartmoor have been ongoing since 2005. Initial findings revealed a precarious situation, with only a handful of nesting pairs facing significant predation threats. In response, the National Curlew Summit of 2018, convened by His Royal Highness on Dartmoor, catalyzed the development of a multifaceted conservation strategy. This strategy encompasses habitat enhancement, targeted predator control, and an innovative 'head-starting' program developed by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) to bolster the Curlew population.


This groundbreaking initiative takes advantage of Curlew eggs removed from RAF runways in East Anglia for aircraft safety. These eggs are incubated and raised at the WWT's Slimbridge centre before being transferred to Dartmoor for release into the wild, marking a hopeful chapter in Curlew conservation. Since the project's inception in 2021, dozens of Curlew chicks have been successfully reintroduced to Dartmoor, each identified by unique yellow markings to track their migration and return.

The project's success owes much to the collaborative spirit of Dartmoor's farming community. Through targeted grazing by cattle and ponies, alongside the creation of 'scrapes' or wet pools, these stewards of the land have played a pivotal role in enhancing the Curlew's habitat. This work is supported by the Farming in Protected Landscapes programme, which aids in crafting a landscape conducive to the needs of Curlew and other wading birds like Snipe and Lapwings.


As the UK's only upland 'head-starting' initiative, the Dartmoor project serves as a vital learning ground for Curlew conservation nationwide. By marrying direct intervention with broader landscape-scale conservation measures, the initiative aims to safeguard the Curlew's nesting sites, improve chick survival rates, and ensure the thriving future of this majestic bird on Dartmoor and beyond.

Join us in championing the Curlew's cause, a testament to the resilience of nature and the power of collaborative conservation efforts. Together, we can turn the tide for the Curlew, ensuring its call once again becomes a defining sound of Dartmoor's wild landscapes.

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