Our Neighborhood's Biodiversity Map

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Shared by : Arushi Madan (UK)
Habitat : Europe and Middle East
Status : Critically Endangered
Among the world’s most endangered and least understood bird species, the slender-billed curlew (Numensis tenuirostris) is the rarest bird in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. The slender-billed curlew is Europe and the Western Palearctic's rarest bird and critically endangered. Slender-billed curlews feed by using their bills to probe soft mud for small invertebrates. After a long period of steady decline, the slender-billed curlew is extremely rare, with only a minute and still declining population. This is thought to be fewer than 50 adult birds, with no more than two or three verified sightings in any year in the last five (as of 2007).
As a result it is now listed as critically endangered.
It is the first European bird species highly likely to become entirely extinct since the last great auk died in 1852. No regular breeding, passage or wintering population is known, and the number of remaining individuals must be tiny. For these reasons the species qualifies as Critically Endangered. Appearance Challenging to identify because of similarities to the Eurasian curlew and the Whimbrel in particular, this medium-sized wader is a mottled brown-grey colour, with white underparts that are marked with black, often heart-shaped spots on the flanks.
The sexes are similar in appearance, although the female is generally larger in size. The slender-billed curlew is a small curlew, 36-41 cm in length with a 77-88 cm wingspan. It is therefore about the same size as a whimbrel, but it is more like the Eurasian curlew in plumage. The breeding adult is mainly greyish brown above, with a whitish rump and lower back. The underparts are whitish, heavily streaked with dark brown. The flanks have round or heart-shaped spots. The non-breeding plumage is similar, but with fewer flank spots. Male and female are alike in plumage, but females are longer-billed than males, an adaptation in curlew species that eliminates direct competition for food between the sexes. The juvenile plumage is very similar to the adult, but the flank are marked with brown streaking, the heart-shaped spots only appearing toward the end of the first winter. This species shows more white than other curlews, and the white underwings, along with the distinctive flank markings, are key identification criteria.
Distribution and habitat Native
Albania; Algeria; Azerbaijan; Bulgaria; Croatia; Greece; Hungary; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Iraq; Italy; Kazakhstan; Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of; Montenegro; Morocco; Romania; Russian Federation (Central Asian Russia, European Russia); Saudi Arabia; Serbia; Tunisia; Turkey; Ukraine; Uzbekistan; Yemen Vagrant: Austria; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Canada; Cyprus; Egypt; France; Germany; Israel; Kuwait; Malta; Netherlands; Palestinian Territory, Occupied; Poland; Portugal; Spain; Switzerland; United Kingdom

This species is migratory. It breeds in marshes and peat bogs in the taiga of Siberia, and is migratory, formerly wintering in shallow freshwater habitats around the Mediterranean. This species has occurred as a vagrant in western Europe, the Canary Islands, the Azores, Oman, Canada and Japan.
Threats, causes of decline
The primary cause of the decline is excessive hunting on the Mediterranean wintering grounds. Historically hunting was high and may have been the key factor in its decline. Following the initial decline, breakdown of social behaviour patterns may have prevented recovery.
Habitat loss and exploitation, particularly in the wintering grounds. There has been extensive drainage of wetlands in the Mediterranean and North Africa and potentially important areas in Iraq. The conversion of European wetlands and central European steppes to arable farmland may have heavily impacted the species in depriving it of important habitats during migration.
Additionally threatened by pollution, e.g. oil spills. Conservation Actions Memorandum of Understanding, established under the auspices of the CMS, came into effect in 1994, and a working group was established in 1998. An international action plan was published in 1996. National action plans are in place in Italy , Bulgaria and Ukraine. Several of the sites within the EU where the species has been recorded are designated as Special Protection Areas.
There have been several international initiatives to survey passage and wintering sites and potential breeding areas, collate records, protect key sites, raise public awareness and educate hunters. The Slender-billed Curlew Working Group has developed a tool kit to assist people to identify and report Slender-billed Curlew in the field (available at: www.slenderbilledcurlew.net). If any can be found and caught then the sites used during the annual cycle could be determined by satellite tagging. An attempt to narrow down the search for breeding and moulting sites using stable isotope analysis and Strontium analysis of museum skins commenced in 2002). Adoption of SBC Species Action Plan, 2010 BirdLife Database and Bibliography maintained. Launch of a challenge to find the slender-billed curlew including through: website; periodical articles, eg. Der Falke November 2008 ('The slender-billed curlew: the greatest European birding challenge') and translation into French, Greek, Italian, Russian, Arabic and Iranian; pin badges etc.; research, eg. stable isotope analyses and satellite tagging.

Sources/References :


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