I’ll admit that I have a particular soft spot for the Spoon-billed Sandpiper (Eurynorhynchus pygmeus) but news that 140 of these Critically Endangered birds were sighted on a stretch of coastline north of Shangai, China, is a real boost to efforts being made to save this species from extinction.
Named after its spoon-shaped bill, the Spoon-billed Sandpiper flies a remarkable 8,000 km as it migrates between breeding grounds in north-eastern Russia and wintering sites in Bangladesh and Myanmar. Along the way, it stops at inter-tidal wetlands in Japan, North Korea, South Korea, China and Vietnam to feed and rest. Unfortunately, reclamation of tidal flats for industry, infrastructure, and aquaculture is a great threat to the Spoon-billed Sandpiper and this, along with hunting at its wintering sites, is thought to have contributed to a decline in numbers.
Between 15 – 19 October this year, an international team from the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Taskforce carried out a survey along a 120 km stretch of coastline between Dongtai and Rudong in China, one of the stopping points used by the Spoon-billed Sandpiper to refuel on its long journey. A record total of 140 Spoon-billed Sandpipers as well as a fantastic 1,200 Endangered Nordmann’s Greenshank (Tringa guttifer) were recorded, demonstrating the area’s importance for migratory birds.
Luckily, this confirmation of the area’s importance as a stopover point has prompted local authorities to announce the creation of a protected area for the Spoon-billed Sandpiper which will also provide sanctuary for other species using the inter-tidal wetlands.
Conservation efforts to increase numbers of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper will continue and Dr Evgeny Syroechkovskiy of the Russian Ministry for Natural Resources, SBS Task Force Chair, has also said that he will encourage his ministry to, “include both, Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Nordmann’s Greenshank, which breed exclusively in Russia, into the recently signed bilateral agreement on migratory bird conservation between China and Russia.”
The Spoon-billed Sandpiper may not yet be out of the danger zone but this survey gives a positive indication that the species can be saved, and will spur on those who are working hard to make sure it is.
Information about the Spoon-billed Sandpiper can also be found on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™.