Searching the Slender-billed Curlew (Numenius tenuirostris)

By | 27 November 2010

The Slender-billed Curlew (Numenius tenuirostris) is a critically endangered species (IUCN Red List) and is the rarest bird species in the Western Palearctic. It breeds in marshes and peat bogs in the Siberian taiga and migrates to over-winter around the Mediterranean area.

The latest verified records of the species are those obtained in Greece in April 1999 and in Oman in February and August 1999. At the last-known regular wintering site, Merja Zerga in Morocco, there have been no verified records since 1995. The latest verified record ever of the species comes from Kiskunság National Park, Hungary in April 2001.

Slender-billed Curlew, Merja Zerga, Morocco, February 1995. Photo by Chris Gomersall/RSPB images

Slender-billed Curlew, Merja Zerga, Morocco, February 1995. Photo by Chris Gomersall/RSPB images

The best known site for the Slender-billed Curlew is Merja Zerga, Morocco; however the analysis of historical records showed that the species has frequented several sites along the coast of North Africa from Tunisia to southern Morocco (91.5% of the 142 sites with Slender-billed Curlew records are within 1 km of the coast, Buchanan et al. 2010).

In the framework of the 1994 intergovernmental Memorandum of Understanding concerning conservation measures for the Slender-billed Curlew under the United Nations Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), the “Slender-billed Curlew Working Group” (SBCWG) was formed in 1997. After a period of dormancy from 2003 until mid 2008, the Working Group was relaunched in December 2008. One of the SBCWG’s roles is to coordinate the effort to find the species in the known wintering sites (as is it practically impossible to search the huge potential breeding area in Siberia). Please refer to SBCWG’s website to see its full roles and objectives.

It would be very good if you can help in this “last and final push” to find this enigmatic species before it is too late. If you are considering joining the effort, please think about visiting the SBCWG’s website (see below) to read the “Protocol on Searching for Slender-billed Curlews” and to download other interesting and necessary materials.

Buchanan G., Crockford N. & Gretton A. 2010. The Slender-billed Curlew Numenius tenuirostris in Africa. Bull ABC 17: 202-206.

Update:

You can see the report of the survey to search the Slender-billed Curlew along the Moroccan coasts carried out in February 2011:

Moores, R.D., Amezian, M. & Elbanak, A. 2011. Morocco Slender-billed Curlew (Numenius tenuirostris) survey: Mediterranean Coast and northern Atlantic coast, 06.02.2011-13.02.2011. Unpublished report.

Distribution of accepted Slender-billed Curlew records in North Africa between 1900 and 2000 (Buchanan et al. 2010)

Distribution of accepted Slender-billed Curlew records in North Africa between 1900 and 2000 (Buchanan et al. 2010)

The only known video footage and sound-recording of Slender-billed Curlew! The recordings were made at Merja Zerga, Morocco.

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