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Rare curlews filmed mating at Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary

So rare and well camouflaged are Bush stone-curlews the best anyone can hope for is to maybe – just maybe – hear one imported into an animal sanctuary, calling at night.

Of 11 curlews brought into Canberra's Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary last year and released, only five remain. The rest have either been taken by predators, or have left for other woodlands.

So imagine the excitement film footage of a pair of curlews mating has caused throughout Canberra's conservation community?

The brief coupling has been put to music and posted on YouTube, and has given hope a fragile community of birds not seen in these parts for decades might actually raise a family.

Ecologist  and general manager of the Capital Woodlands and Wetlands Conservation Trust Dr Jason Cummings said the film was a rare fluke. 

"When you consider they have 400 hectares to roam around, they could have done it anywhere in the sanctuary, it is just a fluke, an exciting fluke in front of the camera.


"It shows they are happy in their sanctuary environment. There's good habitat that they can rely upon, feed  on, live in, and potentially presents a fantastic opportunity to build a local population. That is our ultimate goal, to have a breeding population, so the  birds can populate other areas of woodland."

The trust, in partnership with the ACT government and Canberra Ornithologists Group, plan to bring more curlews in next year to supplement the population. Curlews are not prolific breeders, according to Dr Cummings, and in the right conditions may have two or three clutches a year, but more often raise only one or two chicks.

"To have them go free to wherever they like, and to hopefully lay eggs in the sanctuary is very good news," Dr Cummings said. A nesting pair run the risk of brown snakes taking their eggs or young ones, and birds of prey calling for a meal.

"We hope these ones who are breeding are the wily ones who have learned how to avoid predators and will teach their young ones how to do it as well.  There is no point raising a bunch of dumb curlews to feed the foxes," Dr Cummings said.