Twelve curlew chicks have hatched at Fota Wildlife Park as part of its partnership with the Breeding Waders European Innovation Partnership (EIP) programme launched last week.

The 12 Eurasian curlew chicks hatched from 31 viable eggs collected from the wild across various counties in Ireland.

More chicks are expected to hatch in the coming weeks, according to Fota Wildlife Park.

Under the Breeding Waders EIP programme, nest protection officers and project staff intensively survey areas of suitable habitat.

Nest-finding techniques

The project has used both traditional nest-finding techniques and innovative methods, such as the use of thermal imagery drones.

These drone flights have been undertaken under licence from the National Parks and Wildlife Service by project partners, the Hen Harrier Programme.

Once located, the eggs are collected from the wild and are sent to Fota Wildlife Park for incubation and rearing of the chicks to fledglings.

When capable of flying, the birds will be released back into their native habitats, providing them with protection against predators and other threats during the vulnerable early stages of life. Curlews can live up to a maximum of 32 years.

Animal care manager at Fota Wildlife Park Declan O’Donovan said: “The curlew, once a common sight in Ireland’s bogs and wetlands, is now critically endangered, having experienced a staggering 98% decline since the 1970s.

"This alarming trend places the breeding curlew on the brink of extinction. At Fota Wildlife Park, we are deeply committed to this conservation project, as protecting native species is a priority."

World class

Project manager for the Breeding Waders EIP Owen Murphy said that Fota Wildlife Park's dedication and skill in the areas of aviculture and chick rearing is world-class.

"We feel like these eggs and chicks are getting the best possible start in life. This project is an exciting venture.

"We look forward to working closely with all our project partners, landowners, farmers and others to try [to] pull our native breeding wader species back from the brink of national extinction," he said.