Slender-billed Curlew

Moretta TabaccataOrder: Charadriiformes
Family: Scolopacidae
Scientific name: (Numenius tenuirostris*)

Identification
Length: 36-41 cm
Wingspan: 77-88 cm

A medium sized wader which is light brown, uniformly spotted, lighter on the tail and the secondary feathers with a white rump and characteristic long slim beak lightly curved downwards. Similar to the Eurasian Curlew (but smaller) and to the Whimbrel (but slimmer and with a slimmer beak).
The females are generally bigger and heavier and have a longer beak. The call is similar to the Eurasian Curlew but with a higher tone.

Habitat
The little data available suggests that in Italy it prefers vast wetlands characterized by the presence of small pools in fields (Habitat similar to the type “ Mediterranean salt  meadows”) and dry salicornia (Van den Berg, 1990;Gretton, 1991) often used by domestic livestock, where it is possible to find  a greater presence of its preferred prey which includes invertebrates such as annelids, insect larvae and gastropods (Zenatello et al, 1996).

Feeding
It eats insect larvae, molluscs, crustaceans and annelids which it captures by feeling in the earth and shallow water with its long beak, using movements that are quicker than the Eurasian Curlew.

Reproduction
The reproductive area is not currently known as it is the rarest species from the Paleartic; in the past this included the regions of Omsk and Novosibirsk in Southern Siberia (where the last ascertained breeding occurred in around 1920).

Conservation status

The Slender-billed Curlew is most definitely the rarest Paleartic bird species with the greatest risk of extinction. It is in the highest risk categories identified by the main international conventions and community directives regarding fauna. It is included in Annex I of EU directive 79/409, in Annex I of CITES, Annex I of the Bonn Convention and in Annex II of the Bern Convention.  The Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) produced an appropriate Memorandum of Understanding in 1994 concerning conservation measures for the Slender-billed Curlew (MoU), undersigned by numerous countries included in the Range States, amongst which Italy (signed on 18 April 2000). In this document the species is expressly declared  at risk of extinction, an act which, in accordance with Law n 157/92, art 2, comma 1, letter c, permits attributing the status of particularly protected species.
What can be understood from the data regarding sightings since 1980 is that most of the sightings (8) were in Puglia and the species is certainly regular in the region, in particular in the wetlands of the Gulf of Manfredionia and above all in the Salso Lago Oasis where it was both overwintering and migratory.
The National Action Plan has identified the Salso Lago Oasis as a key site indispensable for any subsequent action aimed at avoiding the extinction of the Slender-billed Curlew. Key sites are those in which there is a current or recent semblance of regularity in sightings, a current or recent presence of groups of individuals are recorded, or there is a significant ‘ historical presence in areas which have not been excessively altered or can, at least be restored’ (Devillers e Vangeluwe, 1994).
The conservation status of the species in the site according to the Natura 2000  network: A
The project area falls into one of the key sites for the  species  Slender-billed Curlew in Italy (A.Gretton -International action plan for the Slender-billed curlew - page 12).
There have been 76 reported sightings of the birds in the 1900-1993 period plus other imprecise ones which have not yet been confirmed (at least 10). In the winter of 1994-1995, 20 individuals were seen in the current SPA and around the project area: the same ones were observed foraging in the project area by ornithologists (Caldarella, Marrese, 1995). These sightings are some of the most important in the last century at the National and International level, confirming that the current SPA is a site for the overwintering of the species ( data Istituto Nazionale Fauna Selvatica - Italia / Serra L., Baccetti N., Zenatello M., 1995 Slender-billed Curlews wintering in Italy in 1995).
Based on official data (INFS) the species has not been counted since 2000 (Zenatello M. and Baccetti N. – National Action Plan for the Slender-billed Curlew - page 13), but it can be considered migratory and occasionally overwintering (data from Centro Studi Naturalistici); in addition there were two observations in the summer time in 2006 (data from Centro Studi Naturalistici) confirming that the SPA is also an area used for summer stays.

The LIFE+ project for the Slender-billed Curlew
The creation of 90 hectares of Mediterranean salt meadows in the SPA through the LIFE+ project (ActionC1) aims at recreating a buffer zone external to the existing wetlands. As these wetlands are characterized by a uniform vegetation  due to the invasive presence of reed beds and a water depth which is on average over 1 metre,  it does not possess the characteristics suitable for the Slender- billed Curlew,  a species which is essentially associated with shallow pools. For this species (the most endangered at the global level) the restoration of a particularly suitable wetland situated in one of the most relevant sites at the national level, increases the attractiveness of the site, mitigating the medium-high threats in the area to migration and overwintering caused by the loss of habitat and poaching (A.Gretton -International Action Plan for the Slender-billed Curlew pages 8 and 9) also in consideration of the safety and protection of the area which is in both the SPA and the Gargano National Park. The actions also respond to the conservation priorities foreseen in the Action plan relating to the “correct management and protection of all of the sites important for the migration, overwintering and breeding” (A.Gretton -International Action Plan for the Slender-billed Curlew - page 4).
The recovery of habitat type “Mediterranean salt meadows” (cod. 1410), will guarantee an increase in the local trophic levels, given that a suitable environment would be created  for their most sought after prey (annelids, crane fly larvae, other invertebrates and crustaceans, etc) which characterize these habitats. The presence in the area of highly saline terrain also guarantees that the type of habitat restored is extremely similar to habitats present in other sites of greatest importance for migration and overwintering (A.Gretton -International Action Plan for the Slender-billed Curlew - page 12).

The environment recovered will be used in some periods of the year (excluding the breeding season) as an area for controlled pasture (particularly for buffalo, cows and sheep), which will guarantee greater plant biodiversity and a greater quantity of invertebrates. This situation reproduces the same environmental conditions which exist where the species have been observed in the SPA in which the project area falls (page 14 - Zenatello M. and N.Baccetti editors , 2001 – National Action Plan for the  Slender-billed Curlew. Quad. Cons. Natura, 7, Min. Ambiente - INFS).
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The LIFE+ Nature and Biodiversity 2007 project  –“Conservation activities for priority avifauna in the Lago Salso Oasis” is structured according to 4 series of actions:

1 Preparatory actions
2 Concrete conservation actions
3 Awareness raising and communication actions
4 Monitoring actions
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