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Curlew Sickle Moon 

Exploring Curlews and their yearly Migration from Coastal wetlands to Yorkshire’s moorlands


Curlews start arriving on Calderdale’s moors in early spring. They’ve spent the winter on the coast, poking about in the mudflats and the shoreline feeding mainly on invertebrates like marine worms, but also crabs and small molluscs. At high tide they roost (rest and sleep) in flocks on nearby fields or salt marshes. During winter months Morecambe Bay is a good place to see all this going on, especially as our own Calderdale population is joined by thousands of other curlews who’ve flown in from the rest of Northern England to spend their winter here too.

It’s estimated in Calderdale we have at least 150 breeding pairs.(1)    Each will endeavour to incubate a clutch of 2-6 eggs laid in April or May, and keep its hatched brood fed and safe until they fledge about five weeks later. This is a precarious time and it’s estimated for every breeding pair of adults only 0.25 chicks are raised per season. If a young bird can make it to adulthood its annual survival rate is good, and it might live on average to be 11, although the oldest recorded curlew was 32.

Being waders, curlews like wet ground they can get their beaks into for food, and up on the moors and rough pasture they have a varied diet including insect larvae, flies, moths, worms, freshwater invertebrates, spiders, and even small animals like frogs and rodents.  They also need enough mixed vegetation to hide in, especially from predators like foxes and carrion crows.  Come late summer and into September adult and juvenile curlews migrate back to the coast for winter.


Unfortunately us humans are making it difficult for Britain’s curlews.  The way we choose to manage the land and the changes we are making to the climate mean it’s harder for them to find the type of breeding habitat they need, enough food to feed their chicks, cope with the weather, and avoid predation and disturbance. Whilst numbers across Britain are going down, here in the Pennines, we still experience their arrival every Spring and compared with other parts of the country we seem to be holding on to our curlew population better than others, or at least it is declining less rapidly. 

Let’s hope in an uncertain future Yorkshire’s moorlands can remain a stronghold for the curlew and all the other moorland species for whom this is home.


As part of Culture Dale you can visit the full immersive audio visual experience installation at 

IOU Creation Centre, Dean Clough, Halifax

from the 1 July to 9 August 2024, Mon - Fri 11am - 4pm

Curlew sickle Moon - Celebrating Curlews in the UK  


Produced by Sue Walpole in collaboration with soundscape artist Jo Kennedy and audio-visual artist John Bonner - with special thanks to commissioners 

  Billie Klinger

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