Spoon-billed sandpiper discovery in China

This video, recorded in Russia, says about itself:

Displaying male Spoon-billed Sandpiper somewhere in Chukotka on June 13th 2010.

From Wildlife Extra:

Important Spoon-billed sandpiper site found in China

In the wild, only about a half of a spoon-billed sandpiper (0.6 on average) fledges a year for every breeding pair. Of this small number, very few young birds make it back to Russia to breed – in fact five times as many would need to make it back just to keep the population stable. This means that taking eggs for conservation breeding has a negligible effect on the population, as a small proportion of eggs result in fledged birds, and a high proportion of birds that fledge do not currently survive.

A third of the global population of one of the planet’s rarest species discovered at threatened site

October 2011. A third of the global population of the critically endangered spoon-billed sandpiper has been discovered at a key stop-over site in China.

103 birds

A record 103 birds were recorded at a new site within the Rudong mudflats in China last week. The estimated total number of spoon-billed sandpipers is thought to be less than 300 adults, meaning the site is depended upon as a stopover for about a third of the world’s population. However, plans to redevelop the site may have serious impact on the suitability of the area for spoon-billed sandpipers, plunging the birds’ future into further danger.

Extinction predicted in 10 years

Declining at a rate of a quarter each year, the spoon-billed sandpiper could be extinct within a decade unless action to halt development on the bird’s flyway is taken.

Members of the Shanghai Wild Bird Society (SWBS) were responsible for the find and have been financially supported by the East Asian Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP). Tong Menxui from the SBWS discovered the unusually high numbers over a series of days, peaking at 103 on the 12 October.

Only 2 juveniles

He said: “The sudden cold spell and bad weather might have triggered the birds to stop migrating further so the birds are assembling on Rudong before crossing larger distances. Among the flocks were only two juveniles, which are known to migrate separately and usually later. We intend to continue to monitor the site for more birds passing through over the coming days and weeks.”

8000 KMS migration

The spoon-billed sandpiper is threatened by loss of essential intertidal feeding sites along its 8000km migration route from Russia to its wintering grounds in south and south-east Asia, and also by trapping on its non-breeding grounds. While these issues are being tackled by the joint efforts of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force a programme has begun to create a captive breeding population of the bird in the UK.

Captive breeding attempt

An emergency rescue mission to save the spoony got underway in May. A partnership of conservationists, including experts from the RSPB, Birds Russia and WWT, travelled to the remote far east of Russia to take eggs and hatch them in captivity. The birds will soon be brought to the UK where they will be part of a captive breeding programme. It is hoped offspring of the birds will be used to supplement the wild population in years to come.

The conservation-breeding programme is just part of an international campaign to save the spoon-billed sandpiper and will benefit many endangered species that use the same migratory flyway. The RSPB and Birds Russia, together with BirdLife International, WWT and the BTO as well as other partners in the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force are encouraging governments to conserve the most important wildlife sites, and recognise their great natural value to human society.

Significant finding

Cristoph Zöckler, the Coordinator of the EAAFP Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force, said: “These are very exciting findings and I congratulate Tong Menxui on finding such a big flock. The fact that so many of the world’s population of spoon-billed sandpipers have been spotted here means this site is extremely important to them.

“Immediate and urgent action is required to stop any further development and to protect the intertidal mudflats in Rudong and at other sensitive areas on the Chinese coast, such as the Minjiang Estuary, in order to prevent the extinction of this and potentially many other species for which this area is of great significance.

“This is an opportunity for China to lead the way, just as the country has with its work to save the Giant panda. By simply safeguarding this site, the Chinese Government could do more for the future of this endangered bird than the rest of us put together.”

See also here.

It is estimated that at least 220 Spoon-billed Sandpipers, about half the global population, winter in Myanmar’s Gulf of Martaban. “Although not specifically targeted, Spoon-billed Sandpiper is regularly caught in nets that are set to catch other waders for food. Evidence suggests that this trapping is one of the main causes of the rapid recent decline of this species”, said Htin Hla, Chairman of BANCA: here.

June 2012. Conservationists will attempt to give dozens of Critically Endangered spoon-billed sandpipers a head-start this summer, by hand rearing them for the first weeks of their lives in Russia. The new strategy is part of an ongoing international conservation effort that stretches from the coast of Bangladesh and Burma to the Russian Far East, and even has an outpost at Slimbridge in Gloucestershire: here.

6 thoughts on “Spoon-billed sandpiper discovery in China

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