Placement, survival and predator identity of Eurasian curlew Numenius arquata nests on lowland grass-heath

Natalia B. Zielonka, Robert W. Hawkes, Helen Jones, Robert J. Burnside, Paul M. Dolman


Within the UKs largest lowland Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata population, curlew preferentially nested on physically-disturbed (treated) than undisturbed (control) grassland, and low nest survival rates were primarily attributable to Red Fox Vulpes vulpes.


To inform conservation interventions for curlew within semi-natural lowland dry-grassland landscapes.


Across a 3,700 ha lowland dry-grassland landscape, over two years, effects of ground-disturbance management on Curlew nest placement (n=41) were examined using GLMs controlling for vegetation strata; effects of site and management on nest survival (n=44) were examined controlling for lay date and year. Nest predator identity was investigated using temperature sensors (n=28) and nest cameras (n=10).


Curlews were five times more likely to nest on physically-disturbed than undisturbed grassland. Nest survival (0.24 ± 0.07, SE) was not influenced by year or ground-disturbance but declined with lay date and differed markedly between the two sites, consistent with predator control. Predation accounted for 33/36 of failed nests and was predominantly at night (17/23 cases where timing was known, p<0.001), consistent="" with="" mammalian="" predators.="" cameras="" indicated="" foxes="" to="" be="" the="" main="" predator="" (4/5="" cases).="" overall="" breeding="" productivity="" was="" 0.16="" ±="" 0.01="" (se)="" chicks="" per="" nesting="" attempt.="">


Curlew suffered from unsustainably high rates of nest predation primarily attributable to Foxes. A combination of perimeter fencing and lethal predator control appeared to improve nest success at one site. Ground-disturbance treatment could encourage nesting attempts in areas managed to minimise predator density.