23 June 2024
Conservation detection dogs sniff out rare curlew nests

All images are AI generated (poorly)

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The majestic curlew, once a common sight across Ireland’s meadows, is teetering on the brink of extinction, with a staggering 97% decline in breeding pairs over four decades in Ireland and an 82% drop in Northern Ireland. Deploying their keen noses, specially trained conservation dogs have taken up the crucial task of locating elusive curlew nests in a race against time to protect this imperiled species.

Alright folks, let’s dive into a rather fascinating piece of news that’s been making the rounds recently. You see, our feathered friends, the curlews, are having a bit of a rough time. These long-legged beauties, which were once as common as finding a misplaced pencil under your desk, have become alarmingly rare. We’re talking about a staggering drop in their numbers—97% over the last 40 years in Ireland, to be precise. That’s like if your entire school had only a few students left!


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Now, here’s where it gets really interesting. Researchers, those curious minds always looking for solutions, have come up with a rather novel idea to help these birds out. They’ve turned to our four-legged pals—dogs. But not just any dogs, we’re talking about super sniffers! These conservation detection dogs have been trained to find curlew nests, which, by the way, are notoriously tough to spot given their top-notch camouflaging skills.


In a head-to-head (or should I say, nose-to-nest?) trial, these dogs aced the test, finding over 93% of the nests, while human searchers only found about 43.8%. That’s like comparing someone who’s just learned to whistle to a professional flutist! The dogs didn’t need to see the nests; their noses did all the work. They even used these nifty little tubes to capture the scent of real nests, then scattered them around for the dogs to find—a bit like a hide-and-seek game with a scientific twist.


What’s the big deal about finding nests, you ask? Well, once we know where these nests are, we can protect them from predators with some fencing—kind of like setting up a little safe zone. If we can do this quickly and for more nests, we could see more baby curlews grow up and spread their wings—literally!


Of course, the goal is to do this without scaring the parents off, so researchers are being super careful. They’re even thinking ahead to what they call “head-starting” projects. That’s where they give the curlew chicks a bit of a boost by raising them safely away from predators before releasing them back into the wild.


So, what’s the takeaway from all this? It’s a reminder that sometimes, the best solutions come from thinking outside the box—or the nest, in this case. And when we work together, drawing on the unique strengths of both humans and animals, we can make a real difference in protecting our planet’s incredible biodiversity. Isn’t that something worth wagging our tails about?

SOURCE: Conservation detection dogs sniff out rare curlew nests



1. Why are curlews becoming rare?

Curlews have experienced a staggering drop in numbers, with a 97% decline in the last 40 years in Ireland. This decline is due to various factors, including habitat loss and predation.

2. How do conservation detection dogs help curlews?

Conservation detection dogs have been trained to find curlew nests, which are difficult to spot due to their excellent camouflage. These dogs use their sense of smell to locate the nests, resulting in a higher success rate compared to human searchers.

3. What happens once the nests are found?

Once the nests are located, measures can be taken to protect them from predators. This may involve setting up fencing around the nests to create safe zones. By protecting the nests, more baby curlews can grow up and contribute to the population.

4. How do researchers ensure they don’t scare off the parents?

Researchers are being extremely cautious to avoid scaring the parents away from the nests. They take precautions to minimize disturbance and ensure the safety of the curlew parents during the nest protection process.

5. What are “head-starting” projects?

“Head-starting” projects involve raising curlew chicks in a safe environment away from predators before releasing them back into the wild. This gives the chicks a better chance of survival and contributes to the growth of the curlew population.

Related Wikipedia Articles

Topics: Curlew (bird), Conservation detection dogs, Habitat loss

The curlews () are a group of nine species of birds in the genus Numenius, characterised by their long, slender, downcurved bills and mottled brown plumage. The English name is imitative of the Eurasian curlew's call, but may have been influenced by the Old French corliu, "messenger", from courir ,...
Read more: Curlew

Osmoderma eremita
Osmoderma eremita, the hermit beetle or Russian leather beetle, is a species of European beetle in the family Scarabaeidae. Adults reach between 28 and 32 mm in length.
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Habitat destruction
Habitat destruction (also termed habitat loss and habitat reduction) occurs when a natural habitat is no longer able to support its native species. The organisms once living there have either moved to elsewhere or are dead, leading to a decrease in biodiversity and species numbers. Habitat destruction is in fact...
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