22 August 2019

GWCT’s plea to save much-loved wading birds

Wetlands 6

AN ambitious tracking project that will monitor the whereabouts of three red-listed birds is being launched by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT).

Curlew, lapwing and woodcock – all much-loved wading birds which are disappearing at a rapid rate of decline from our British countryside – will be tracked and tagged.

It’s the Trust’s biggest tracking project to date, which will be led by Andrew Hoodless, who is head of wetland research at GWCT.

“The fate of these red-listed species cannot change without a better understanding of their declines,” he said.

Dr Hoodless and his team of scientific experts hope to tag 20 curlew, 20 lapwing and 50 woodcock next year.

Breeding curlews are disappearing fast, particularly in Ireland, Wales and lowland areas of England and Scotland.

Adult curlews will be fitted with a GPS tag which gives scientists more information about the importance of habitat, food availability and predation in areas where these birds are disappearing fastest.

The tags will provide hourly locations for three to four years, enabling the team to determine adult feeding areas, movements outside the breeding season and links between breeding and wintering sites. Tagging sites for this study will include our Scottish demonstration farm at Auchnerran and farms within the Curlew Country project in Shropshire.

Similarly, lapwing numbers are in sharp decline – falling by a third in just ten years.

Although the main cause of the decline is poor breeding success, little is known about the movements of lapwing during the winter and the importance of links between breeding and wintering sites.

To better understand lapwing survival, GWCT needs to investigate the connections between breeding and wintering sites, assess fidelity to winter sites, and compare the impact of cold and mild winters.

Our current research through the Woodcock Watch tagging project has provided an insight into the migrations of woodcock wintering in Britain and Ireland.

New GPS tags provide better data than the satellite tags we have previously used - more accurate locations (to about 15 metres) and five times more of them – providing not only valuable information on woodcock’s migratory movements but, most significantly, small scale movements at their continental breeding sites.

A fuller understanding of woodcock habitat use in their Scandinavian and Russian strongholds will also allow us to compare prime woodcock habitats overseas with those available to our resident birds here in the UK.

To make this project possible, the GWCT needs need to raise £51,100 to tag 90 birds this winter and next spring.

Dr Hoodless added: “With your donation, you can help us to answer the difficult questions about where our curlew, lapwing and woodcock go, and why. Building on our Woodcock Watch campaign, this new tagging project is our most ambitious yet.”

“Those managing the countryside listen to our advice, whether it’s how to manage their land for wildlife habitats or when to refrain from shooting woodcock. This project can break new ground and improve the understanding you have helped us to build in recent years.

“Please support it however you can.”

You can pledge your support to this campaign below or at www.gwct.org.uk/wadertags

Tags using GPS technology will be fitted to all three species to obtain very accurate locations (15 m), tailored to each species. Curlew tags will use the mobile phone network to transmit data hourly, without the need to retrieve the tag or relocate the bird. As lapwing and woodcock can only take smaller tags, the maximum data will be obtained by recapturing them or relocating individuals, although our expertise allows us to do so.

Join our biggest tracking project yet and help curlew, lapwing and woodcock


We need to understand what’s happening to our wading birds. With your help, we can answer the difficult questions about where our curlew, lapwing and woodcock go, and why.

Please help us by donating by card or PayPal:

Notes to editors

The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust – providing research-led conservation for a thriving countryside. The GWCT is an independent wildlife conservation charity which has carried out scientific research into Britain’s game and wildlife since the 1930s. We advise farmers and landowners on improving wildlife habitats. We employ 22 post-doctoral scientists and 50 other research staff with expertise in areas such as birds, insects, mammals, farming, fish and statistics. We undertake our own research as well as projects funded by contract and grant-aid from Government and private bodies. The Trust is also responsible for a number of Government Biodiversity Action Plan species and is lead partner for grey partridge and joint lead partner for brown hare and black grouse.

ISDN radio broadcast line – at our Fordingbridge HQ we have an ISDN radio broadcast line, allowing us to conduct interviews remotely.

For information, contact:
Kate Williams
Telephone: 01425 651000
Email: press@gwct.org.uk

Cookie Policy

Our website uses cookies to provide you with a better online experience. If you continue to use our site without changing your browser settings, we'll assume you are happy to receive cookies. Please read our cookie policy for more information.

Do not show this message again