The slender-billed curlew is Europe and the Western Palearctic's rarest bird, critically endangered and with no confirmed sightings since 1998.
In 1994, the Convention on Migratory Species Slender-billed Curlew Memorandum of Understanding was adopted.
In 1997, a slender-billed curlew working group (SBCWG) began to coordinate concerted action for the bird. The work of the group was dormant from 2003 until mid 2008. Then the relaunch of the SBCWG began, with Nicola Crockford as chair and, on behalf of the RSPB, Tim Cleeves in the voluntary role of slender-billed curlew Database and Fieldwork Coordinator.
Technological advances will assist with this work. Satellite tags are now small enough for use on slender-billed curlews; if any could be found and caught then the sites used during the migratory cycle could be determined. Also, RSPB research on stable isotopes may soon enable a narrowing down of the search area for the breeding grounds (the only nesting records date from 1909-1924 in the Tara area of the Novosibirsk region, south-west Siberia).
The challenge is now to re-activate the world's slender-billed curlew experts and skilled birdwatchers to undertake a thorough search for the bird. Once the bird has been found conservation action can be taken in line with the international action plan (a 2002 revised draft of the original 1996 plan will be finalised by 2010).
- To catalyse and coordinate a last major effort to find the slender-billed curlew, focusing:
- in the short term, on thorough searches of known wintering sites and potential moulting sites with a view to satellite tagging the birds;
- in the medium term, if strontium stable isotope work narrows the search to within say 100-200 km, on trying to locate the breeding grounds;
- in the long term, in the last resort, ensuring proper documentation of the extinction of the slender-billed curlew and maximising lessons learnt to avoid other species following suit.
Work planned or underway
Possible meetings: of Slender-billed Curlew Steering Group, eg. October 2008; Slender-billed Curlew MOU signatories/range states, eg. December 2008; SBC Working Group autumn 2009.
Adoption of SBC Species Action Plan, 2010
BirdLife Database and Bibliography maintained
Launch 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.
Opportunities to publicise relaunch of slender-billed curlew work:
20-27 September 2008, BirdLife World Conference, Argentina; 4-5 October 2008, Wader Study Group Annual Meeting, Poland (IUCN World Congress, 5-14 October 2008);
24-27 November 2008, Bern Convention Standing Committee;
1-5 December 2008, CMS COP, Rome: formal announcement of slender-billed curlew last push;
August 2009: slender-billed curlew is a possible featured bird at British Birdwatching Fair;
autumn 2009: Wader Study Group Annual Meeting;
Workshop on slender-billed curlew (ideally back-to-back with workshop on Eurasian curlew, recently uplisted to Near-threatened).
International Waterbird Census newsletter
News from the International Waterbird Census produced by the Slender-billed Curlew Working Group to inform you about a major effort being made to find this Critically Endangered species over the coming year.
Date: 17 July 2009
Slender-billed curlew bibliography: Update No. 3 December 2002
The aim of this document is to build up a bibliography of references on the slender-billed curlew and for the bibliography to be distributed amongst the members of the Slender-billed Curlew Working Group, established under the Bonn Convention.
Date: 22 September 2008
Who to contact
International Species Policy Officer
Convention on Migratory Species
African Eurasian Waterbird Agreement
Institut Royal des Sciences Naturelles de Belgique
Istituto Nazionale Fauna Selvatica
FACE (European Hunters’ Federation)
The RSPB is underwriting chairmanship of the group, expenses of the database and fieldwork coordinator, hosting of the website and purchase of 2,000 pin badges. Funding is needed for expeditions to find the bird, for travel expenses of experts to verify sightings, for satellite tags and expenses incurred in catching the birds and public awareness material (eg. pin badges, T-shirts).