Pensthorpe steps in to help save endangered birds

Chrissie Kelley, Head of Species Management at Pensthorpe at the dedicated Flamingo area of Pensthor

Chrissie Kelley, Head of Species Management at Pensthorpe - Credit: Archant

A nature reserve boss said it had to step in before it was "too late" as they played a crucial role in helping to save an endangered bird.

The experts at Pensthorpe Conservation Trust, based at the 700-acre nature reserve in Norfolk, reared over 80 endangered curlew by hand following an initiative in partnership with Natural England, DEFRA, the MOD, the British Trust for Ornithology and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.

The fully fledged chicks were released into the wild during a ceremony at Sandringham Estate which was attended by HRH The Prince of Wales earlier this week.

Prince Charles visited Sandringham Estate on Tuesday, July 27 to release Eurasian curlews.

NE Chair Tony Juniper, HRH The Prince of Wales and Chrissie Kelley. - Credit: Martin Hayward-Smith

Over one hundred eggs were collected from Ministry of Defence sites across the area and delivered to Pensthorpe’s purpose-built rearing facility to incubate.

The young were then reared by hand in aviaries until they were old enough to fly, before being transported to the Sandringham Estate and Wild Ken Hill, near King’s Lynn, earlier this month with more releases due over the coming weeks.

Chrissie Kelly, head of species management at the Pensthorpe Conservation Trust, said: “The Pensthorpe Conservation Trust has been working in partnership with these organisations to protect the curlew and we’re really proud to have been involved in this innovative project to boost the population in the East of England – we knew that it was imperative to step in and make a change before it became too late.

Eurasian Curlews released on the Sandringham Estate

Eurasian Curlews released on the Sandringham Estate - Credit: Martin Hayward-Smith

“Curlew eggs are destroyed on Ministry of Defence sites in this area as they pose a huge danger to aviation, but the breed is one of the UK’s highest conservation priorities as the country has lost nearly half the breeding population over the last 25 years.

“To know we have played our part in rearing the chicks and getting them ready for release is extremely rewarding, and as some of the birds have been fitted with satellite radio tags we look forward to learning more about their onward journey.”

The curlew is Europe’s largest wading bird and is now red-listed, meaning it is of the highest conservation priority, needing urgent action.

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The UK is home to roughly a quarter of the global breeding population of curlew – some 58,500 pairs – but the species has suffered very significant declines since the 1970s due to loss of habitat and predation, with lowland England experiencing some of the most severe declines.

Curlew eggs being incubated after they were collected from airfields.

Curlew eggs being incubated after being collected from airfields. - Credit: Pensthorpe Conservation Trust