Stone-curlews have an extensive but somewhat patchy breeding range, from the Canary Islands, North Africa and western Europe to central and southern Asia. They are summer visitors to the more northerly parts of this range, wintering in Iberia, the Mediterranean region and sub-Saharan Africa. Previously common, their numbers declined markedly from the late 19th century and through most of the 20th, mainly because of loss of suitable breeding habitat as a result of changing agricultural methods. They became extinct in Germany, Belgium and Poland, and in France and England their numbers seriously decreased.
    In Great Britain, their range previously extended on limestone and sandy soils from Dorset in the west and Kent in the east to Yorkshire in the north. From the mid 19th century the conversion of semi-natural grassland and heath to arable land and conifer plantations led to a shrinking of this range to 12 counties in the mid 20th century and eventually to just five counties (with a few outliers) - Norfolk and Suffolk in the east and Berkshire, Wiltshire and Hampshire in the west - by the 1990s. Between the 1968-72 Breeding Atlas and the 1988-91 Breeding Atlas the range decreased by 42%. Since then however the overall distribution has stabilised with no significant change by the time of Bird Atlas 2007-2011.
    Both the East Anglian and the Wessex populations depend heavily on habitat management and access control by land-owners and the RSPB. In 1998 land-owners were given a financial incentive to encourage Stone-curlew breeding when a provision was added to the Country Stewardship Scheme to reward them for the creation and management on their land of two-hectare plots suitable for Stone-curlew nesting. In Wessex the efforts of the RSPB Stone-curlew Project has led to a steady increase in breeding pairs, from 65 pairs in 1996 to 156 pairs in 2012, though poor weather in spring 2013 resulted in a sharp decline that year to 94 pairs with a subsequent recovery to 130 pairs by 2015.
    In Wiltshire specifically there has been a steady increase from a total of 38 pairs (32 of which bred) in 1996 to 120 pairs (97 bred) in 2012, followed by a decline in 2013 to 95 pairs (74 bred) in 2013 and a partial recovery to 102 pairs (90 bred) by 2015.


The following references are used throughout these species accounts, in the abbreviated form given in quotation marks:
1968-72 Breeding Atlas” – Sharrack, J.T.R. 1976:  The Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. Poyser
1981-84 Winter Atlas” – Lack, P.C. 1986:  The Atlas of Wintering Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. Poyser
1988-91 Breeding Atlas” – Gibbons, D.W., Reid, J.B. & Chapman, R.A. 1993: The New Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland 1988-91. T. & A. Poyser
Birds of Wiltshire” – Ferguson-Lees, I.J. et al. 2007 : Birds of Wiltshire, published by the tetrad atlas group of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society after mapping fieldwork 1995-2000. Wiltshire Ornithological Society.
Bird Atlas 2007-2011” – Balmer, D.E., Gillings, S., Caffrey, B.J., Swann, R.L., Downie, I.S. and Fuller, R.J. 2013: Bird Atlas 2007-2011: the Breeding and Wintering Birds of Britain and Ireland
WTA2” – ("Wiltshire Tetrad Atlas 2 ") the present electronic publication, bringing together the Wiltshire data from “Birds of Wiltshire” and “Bird Atlas 2007-11”, together with data from further fieldwork carried out in 2011 and 2012.
"Hobby" - the annual bird report of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society.