Slender-billed Curlews Extinct?

Sometimes the daily habits of a certain bird species may be so obscure that ornithologists are not even sure how many of them exist. That certainly seems to be the case with the Slender-billed Curlew as it seems there is some doubt as to whether or not this bird is still surviving or has become completely extinct.

The last time there was a confirmed sighting of one of these birds, it was in Morocco in 1999. That may not seem so bad, but when you consider that these birds were quite common in the 19th century, you start to understand why only one occasional sighting raises concerns. In fact, between 1980 and 1990 it was estimated that there were only about 100 of these birds left and experts now guess that that number may be less than half – or the birds may have died out completely. However, ornithologists at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Birdlife International refuse to give up hope. They are asking bird-watchers to join in a massive operation to try and establish how many of these birds may still exist in the wild. Their hope is that if any of the birds are found still breeding, their natural habitat can be protected and the birds might stand a chance of recovering somewhat.

The speedy disappearance of the bird, however, might not be entirely due to diminishing habitat. It seems that the bird is also a target for predators and hunters, since it is plump and is not easily encouraged to flee from possible danger. Little wonder then with those characteristics – and its possible extinction – that it has been called the ‘European dodo’.

With possibly less than 50 birds remaining in the wild, one may be inclined to think that hopes of reviving wild bird populations, or the species as a whole, are hopeless. But according to Nicola Crockford at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, this is not necessarily the case. She said: “Although the situation for the slender-billed curlew does look gloomy, that other species have risen from the ‘dead’ recently does fuel our optimism.” Hopefully these efforts will prove successful and, not only will the birds be found to be still existing and breeding in the wild, but they will be successfully protected and slowly start to grow in numbers.