Scientists monitor fortunes of curlews from Sandringham as GPS tags 'phone home'

HRH The Prince of Wales watched the birds released Credit: @ClarenceHouse

Rare curlews released into the wild after being reared in captivity are providing scientists with information on their behaviour as their tracking devices 'phone home'

Two of the more than 80 young curlews -released at Sandringham and Wild Ken Hill in Norfolk as part of a project to boost the bird's numbers in the East- have been fitted with GPS tags.

The data sent back as the tags download daily locations over the mobile phone network are helping scientists monitor the birds' activities.

HRH The Prince of Wales, Tony Juniper from Natural England and Chrissie Kelly from Pensthorpe Credit: Martin Hayward Smith

The researchers are finding that the released birds are acting like their wild counterparts, but also that - just like people - the two tracked birds have different approaches to life.

One of the two curlews with GPS tags, a bird known as "0E", began exploring its surroundings a few days after release, first in adjacent fields and then further afield and on to the Wash, for short periods initially. Now it is behaving like the non-breeding curlew that visit the Wash in large numbers over the autumn and winter, the researchers said.

But curlew "3A" has been less adventurous and has mainly stayed around the release site, although it has now begun to explore the nearby Snettisham Coastal Park.

Curlews have seen significant declines in numbers since the 1970s and are now "red-listed" due to concerns over their conservation status.

The birds released in Norfolk are part of a partnership project for the east of England, led by Government conservation agency Natural England, to boost numbers in the region.