KLEEFSTRA R, BIJLEVELD AI, VAN DIJK A-J, VAN ELS P, FOLMER E, VAN TURNHOUT C & VAN WINDEN E (2021) Wintering and migrating Eurasian Curlews Numenius arquata in the Netherlands: trends in numbers and distribution since the 1970s. LIMOSA 94 (1): 44-57.
No less than 25-50% of the world population of the Eurasian
Curlew uses the Netherlands as a moulting, staging or
wintering area. In this article we describe how the numbers of
non-breeding birds have changed over time since the 1970s,
based on the national monitoring scheme for waterbirds
that contains high tide roost counts in the Dutch Wadden
Sea and southwestern Delta, inland monitoring of fresh
water systems such as lakes, swamps and rivers, midwinter
counts, inland wader surveys and night roost counts.
Since the mid-1970s the numbers of Eurasian Curlew in
the Netherlands have increased, although this growth
levelled off in the last ten years (Fig. 1). Numbers increased
in all seasons (Fig. 2). At the end of the 1970s the seasonal
maximums reached approximately 105 000-125 000 birds.
In 2000-10, maximums of 175 000-200 000 birds were quite
common. Since then, the seasonal maximums decreased to
150 000-175 000 Eurasian Curlews.
Numbers of overwintering Eurasian Curlews increased in
almost all regions in the Netherlands (Fig. 3). The largest
number of birds was found in the Wadden Sea. The Dutch
part actually has the largest numbers of Eurasian Curlews of
the whole international Wadden Sea (Fig. 4). Numbers have
stabilized in the Wadden Sea, which actually is the reason
why the Dutch wintering population has stabilised. In the
southwestern Delta, where the numbers are on average
about a quarter of the numbers in the Dutch Wadden Sea,
the increase of Eurasian Curlews only started around the
turn of the century. Here numbers are still increasing. Inland,
the numbers are only a fraction of those along the coast.
Numbers increased in areas near large freshwater bodies
such as rivers and lake IJsselmeer. In other inland areas
numbers have been stable over time.
It was difficult to make a comparison of Eurasian Curlew
numbers on inland night roosts between 1982-83 and 2018-
19. Numbers varied a lot between roosts, and counts were
often incomplete (Fig. 5). Maximum numbers on individual
roosts were slightly higher in 1982-83, while average numbers
were lower, but these differences were small.
We suggest that total numbers of Eurasian Curlew in
the Dutch Wadden Sea and the southwest Delta mainly
increased due to favourable foraging circumstances. Benthos
monitoring data show a good supply of prey species such as
Soft-shelled Clam, Ragworms and Lugworms (Fig. 8). Instead,
inland numbers and distribution did not change much.
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