Stone curlews making return thanks to Farming activities

The RSPB has hailed the work of farmers in East Anglia following a significant rise in Stone Curlew numbers in the region.

According to the RSPB, record numbers of Stone Curlew are being reported in nature reserves across East Anglia and Southern England as farmers adopt more nature-friendly farming practices.

Work has been ongoing to facilitate the return of the bird since the 1980s, with safe nesting areas and suitable grassland habitats being provided. Alongside the RSPB nature reserves across the counties of East Anglia, suitable farmland is also providing a home for the birds.

The Stone Curlew migrates to the UK in spring to nest and rear their young.

Males usually return to within 9 miles (15 km) of their hatching site. In early spring the males’ eerie curlew-like calls can be heard at night near to their breeding grounds, hence the colloquial name “wailing heath chicken”.

About the Stone Curlew

During courtship, the male bird displays by walking with legs extended and head level with the body, sometimes with the tail cocked up like a wren. The female often follows. Neck arching and food offerings are also seen.

Birds are usually monogamous with pairs forming strong bonds before breeding. There have been some instances of males pairing with two females, usually switching during the breeding season.

Stone-curlews nest on open, bare ground within short, semi-natural grass heath or downland, and on arable fields, typically associated with chalky and sandy soils in the south and east of the UK, where they are at the most northerly point of their range.

The nest is a simple scrape, lined with small stones, shells, rabbit droppings or pieces of vegetation. Two medium-sized eggs are laid from April onwards, usually two days apart. They can range in colour from cream to buff with varying degrees of dark brown streaks or marks. Both sexes incubate, and chicks normally hatch after 26 days, leaving the nest within two days. Both parents bring food and remain with the chicks until they fledge at between 36 and 42 days.

Pic courtesy: Enguerrand Blanchy on Unsplash