Quest to find one of the world's rarest birds launched at CMS COP9 in Rome

4 December 2008
- the RSPB, BirdLife International
and a number of other partners have begun an international
campaign to find the last remaining individuals of one
of the world's rarest birds - the Slender-billed Curlew.

Launched at the Ninth Meeting of the United Nations Environment
Programme's Convention on Migratory Species (CMS COP9)
in Rome, the "quest" for the Slender-billed
Curlew campaign is a concerted push to find this rare
bird and to prevent it from becoming extinct.

Although once regularly seen across Europe, the Middle
East and North Africa, its numbers have declined dramatically
during the 20th century. With less than 50 individuals
thought to be remaining today, the Slender-billed Curlew
is considered one of the most threatened bird species
in the world.

"The Slender-billed Curlew should not become the
Dodo for Europe" said Mr. Bert Lenten, Executive
Secretary of the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian
Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) - at the international wildlife
conference in Rome, Italy.

Classified as Critically Endangered, the Slender-billed
Curlew (Numenius tenuirostris) is also one of
the least well known birds in the Western Palearctic region,
with no confirmed sightings of the bird in nearly a decade.

Although the last confirmed sighting of the species was
in Oman in 1999, we must not give up on this species and
step up all our efforts to try to find the bird so that
we can identify its breeding and wintering sites and protect
them." said Lenten.

The main causes for the decline of the Slender-billed
Curlew are habitat loss and hunting. Although it is legally
protected and hunting of the species is banned in most
of the countries where it is thought to occur, it has
often been mistakenly shot because of its likeness to
other Curlew species.

The Quest for the Slender-billed

The new campaign involves mobilizing skilled birdwatchers
in all the countries along the species flyway. Finding
a bird of the species is critical for any future conservation
action – as the lack of records since 1999 is making
it difficult to design any targeted conservation strategy
to save this species in danger.

The campaign is trying to reach birdwatchers and conservationists
and urge them to be to be vigilant when checking curlews
and to organize birding holidays and expeditions to likely
Slender-billed Curlew sites.

New Toolkit to help spot
the Slender-billed Curlew

Click to download the new Slender-billed Curlew Toolkit (PDF Format)

To help birdwatchers in their quest and to facilitate
the challenge of identifying the bird and distinguishing
it from the other two curlew species in Western Palearctic,
the RSPB, BirdLife International, CMS and AEWA have produced
a special toolkit.

The new field guide for the Slender-billed Curlew will
help birdwatchers spot, identify and report their findings
so that any observation of the Slender-billed Curlew will
not stay unnoticed and will actually help to support efforts
to save the species. The Toolkit also provides comparative
review and guidance on the field and voice characteristics
of the Slender-billed Curlew as well as instructions on
actions to take in case a bird is actually recorded.

The small, pocket sized and water-resistent toolkit easily
fits within any bird guide book and will become a reference
for the keen birdwatcher. UK-based birders will be able
to receive a copy with the January 2009 issue of the birding
magazine “Birdwatch”. Copies are also available
from the RSPB HQ and the AEWA Secretariat and can also
be downloaded directly from
where additional reference images, sound recordings (recorded
calls) and details on steps to take in searching for the
Slender-billed Curlew can be found.

International Action for
the Slender-billed Curlew

The Slender-billed Curlew is one of the four most threatened
(critically endangered) species listed under AEWA and
has the tiniest population estimate amongst them with
no confirmed records since 1999.

In the AEWA Strategic Plan 2009-2017 the Parties have
set a number of indicators for the successful implementation
of the Agreement and one of them is “zero extinction”
, i.e. that no AEWA waterbird population will become extinct.
In order to meet this target it is necessary to work hard
to find and protect the last Slender-billed Curlews and
their critical sites along the flyway.

In 1994 a Memorandum
of Understanding for the Slender-billed Curlew

was developed under the Convention on Migratory Species
) to foster cooperation between the 30
countries which lie within the species range. In addition,
an expert working group for the species, chaired by BirdLife
International was also developed in the framework of the
MoU. The AEWA Secretariat is an active member of the working
group and the core steering group.

This new quest might be the last chance for the Slender-billed
Curlew. If confirmed records of sightings do come in,
a team of experts will be ready to try to tag the bird
with a satellite transmitter. This will allow the bird
to be tracked to its elusive breeding grounds and will
also disclose the critical sites along its flyway. There
is great hope that this way the bird will actually lead
to the discovery of more Slender-billed Curlews and their
breeding grounds.

Notes for Editors:

AEWA – The African-Eurasian Migratory
Waterbird Agreement, or AEWA is a United Nations Environment
Programme (UNEP) backed treaty dedicated to the protection
of 255 species of waterbirds which migrate along the African-Eurasian
Flyways. Developed under the auspices of the Convention
on Migratory Species (CMS), AEWA provides the framework
for countries in the region to work together to conserve
such species as ducks, waders, storks, flamingos and many
other migratory waterbirds. Countries that have become
Parties to the Agreement commit themselves to putting
measures in place to conserve the region's waterbird populations
and the habitats on which they depend. Currently 62 Parties
out of 118 Range States in Africa and Eurasia have joined

CMS COP9 - The 9th Meeting of the Conference
of the Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of
Migratory Species of Wild Animals (UNEP/CMS) took place
in Rome, 1-5 December 2008. At the meeting, over 300 representatives
from governmental and non-governmental organizations as
well as scientists came together to discuss urgent conservation
responses to address the rapid decline of migratory animal
species across the globe.

“2010 and Beyond: Wildlife Renaissance” was
the theme of CMS COP9. CMS, also called the Bonn Convention,
is an international treaty concluded under the aegis of
the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) dedicated
to the conservation of migratory animals such as birds,
whales and dolphins, sharks, marine turtles and elephants.
CMS has committed itself to reducing the loss of biodiversity,
of migratory animals and their habitats beyond 2010. For
more information please visit the: CMS
COP9 Press Page


Further information on the
"Quest for the Slender-billed Curlew":


RSPB & BirdLife International Press Releases:

Slender-billed Curlew Toolkit
and audio recording:

Slender-billed Curlew Toolkit - for download

Click to download the new Slender-billed Curlew Toolkit (PDF Format)

The electronic version of the Slender-billed Curlew
Toolkit can be dowloaded as a PDF file here: [ Slender-billed
Curlew Toolkit

.Hardcopy versions of the Toolkit can be obtained
from the UNEP/AEWA
and directly
from the Slender-billed
Curlew Working Group

Recorded call of the Slender-billed Curlew -
for your mobile

Click here to download an audio recording of the Slender-billed Curlew

Audio recording of the call of Slender-billed Curlew:
[ MP3
File - 164KB

Credits: Recording of Slender-billed Curlew call
by Adam Gretton at Merja Zerga in January 1990 with
subsequent edits, to remove background noise, by
J P Gautier and J P Richard at the laboratoire d'Ethologie
de Rennes, as published in Oiseax d'Afrique 1 by
Claude Chappuis, and by Magnus Robb.

VIDEO Recording: Slender-billed curlew compared
to whimbrel and curlew

YouTube Video of the Slender-billed Curlew: [ YouTube

The only known video footage and sound-recording
of Slender-billed Curlew! The recordings were made
at Merja Zerga, Morocco. The video is by Andy Butler,
January 1994.


For more information and to report a sighting
please contact:

Nicola Crockford

International Species Policy Officer

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)



Sergey Dereliev

Technical Officer

UNEP/AEWA Secretariat



Last updated on 16 June 2014