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Spoon-billed sandpiper, Eurynorhynchus pygmeus/Calidris pygmeus
alias pygmaeus
Why two scientific names? Click here.

We will present more birds from the Red List during the next months,
to help you to understand what is going on in this wicked earth.

See also http://www.rarebirdsyearbook.com

Spoon-billed sandpiper, Eurynorhynchus pygmeus/Calidris pygmeus
Spoon-billed sandpiper, Eurynorhynchus pygmeus/Calidris pygmeus
© Photo: C. Zöckler, Chukotka, 2000 and © Photo: Chris Schenk 2000

Spoon-billed sandpiper, Eurynorhynchus pygmaeus
Population to day is estimated to <3.000 birds, of which only <1.000 pairs, from the
Eastern tip of the Asian continent down to Kamchatka.
According to www.wetlands.org

The Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Eurynorhynchus pygmeus is unique among waders and,
with its rare occurrence and localised breeding area in Northeast Russia,
is a very charismatic species.
It is the only globally threatened sandpiper breeding in the Arctic
(BirdLife International 2000).
Recent research carried out this summer at selected breeding sites indicates
a dramatic decline in the species' fortune.
The current global population estimate is between 4,000 and 6,000 birds.
There is now evidence that the current population might not exceed 1,000 breeding pairs.

Further research and internationally co-ordinated attention and action is required
to halt the further decline of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper.

On migration, the species has been found in Russia along the Pacific coast and islands.
It has been regularly recorded in Japan, North and South Korea, China and Hong Kong,
Taiwan, India, Bangladesh, possibly in the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand,
Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia (once) and Singapore
(Collar et al. 2000).
Throughout its range it appears to be rare on migration and in winter.
The largest flock ever recorded was 257 birds in the Ganges delta, Bangladesh
(Howes & Parish 1989).

UPDATE 1: Pavel Tomkovich mailed us this additional information in Aug 2002:
"The situation with this species is indeed alarming.
We realized two years ago that the situation was not healthy and this summer
we undertook another survey to Belyaka Spit, northern Chukotsky Peninsula.
The results confirmed our worst expectations: the population has declined about
2.5 times in the 15 years since the previous period of surveys and birds also
declined or disappeared from other surveyed sites.
Reasons for this situation are not clear: however, a decline all over the breeding range means that any reason is common for the whole population
and thus possibly lies outside the breeding range,
although low productivity is also possibly a factor.
Saemankeum is one of the key sites on the flyway for the species,
and its reclamation may become fatal for the remaining population of
Spoon-billed Sandpiper."

From "Spoon-billed Sandpiper: Probable Population Crash"
By: Pavel Tomkovich, Christoph Zockler et al

Table 1: Population Trends
(in pairs)
2,000 – 2,800
Based on calculated estimates
from a limited number of surveys
Flint & Kondratyev 1977
based on recent expedition into
the breeding areas with previously
known estimates
Tomkovich et al. 2002
current figure if population
declined 3-5 times since mid 1970s
Syroechkovskiy unpubl.data.
based on surveys carried out until
2003 with 30% error incl.
Syroechkovskiy, 2004
350 - 380
current optimistic estimate
based on 70 % survey coverage
(Syroechkovskiy & Zöckler
in prep) Zöckler

The main reason for the decline has been suggested to relate
to the habitat conditions along the migration route
(Syroechkovskiy, 2004; Zöckler et al. 2006, Syroechkovskiy. & Zöckler in prep).

According to the latest global waterbird assessment 40% of the waterbird populations
are declining worldwide, but the percentage is considerably higher, at 59% for the
waterbird populations in the Asian region
(Wetlands International 2006),
further pointing to the region' s fragile status of ecosystem health.

For the Asian pacific region the Siberian Crane AP (Action Plan) was developed in
1993 with a Memorandum of Understanding and a conservation plan
(UNEP/CMS 1999).
In 1995, an AP was developed for the Black-faced Spoonbill by BirdLife partners
in Asia
(Severinghaus et al. 1995).
Both are very successful and will serve as the main model for the AP
for the Spoon-billed Sandpiper.

crowberry-lichen vegetation
© www.vulkaner.no

© www.vulkaner.no
The species is an endemic breeder to Russia's far North East.
It also only breeds in coastal tundra along a discontinuous line of 4,500 km.
The species has never been recorded breeding further than 5 (and exceptionally 7 km)
from the sea shore and breeds only in limited types of habitat, mainly lagoon spits with crowberry-lichen vegetation
(Tomkovich 1995; Tomkovich et al., 2002, Zöckler 2003, Syroechkovskiy 2004).
Its conspicuous spatular bill is used in a different fashion to capture food items mostly under water and in mudflats, but also in picking larger insects from tundra vegetation.

Arctic Fox
" In the North the breeding success is much lower due to predation by foxes
and avian predators, and other unknown reasons.
" Southern breeding areas demonstrate a good breeding success in most years

Breeding in Chukotka and the very north of Kamchatka, NE Russia,
it arrives on the breeding grounds in early June.
First chicks hatch around end of June, and fledglings occur in late July and August.

Most birds leave the breeding area by August and migrate across the Sea of Okhotsk.
First migrants are observed in Japan and Korea from early August
with the peak in late September.
By the end of October first migrants arrive at regular staging sites
in the Gulf of Thailand, where some birds stay over winter.
Wintering birds in Bangladesh arrive at the end of November
with some birds staying until April.
By then most birds have started migration passing Chinese coasts between
March and May, reaching Korea in April with the peaking in mid May,
and Kamchatka in late May before arriving back on the breeding grounds.

Peter Ericsson
New wintering sites for Spoon-billed Sandpiper have been discovered in Myanmar
(www.BirdLife.org ). A mention that people can sign up to receive our News Stories by email (http://www.birdlife.org/news/subscription.html ) or RRS feed (http://www.birdlife.org/rss/news.xml )
Bangladesh: Previously considered to be the main wintering area with flocks
of well over 200 birds in the late 1980s and still is one of the most important
wintering areas with regular sightings of up to 25 birds annually
Myanmar Very recent new data give indications that this country is an
important potential wintering area. Recent data need verifying.

1) Habitat degradation and fragmentation

Significant breeding habitat degradation was observed in 5 of 30 visited breeding locations. On the west coast of Provideniya Bay about 80% of the habitat was changed by military activities, causing the total loss of SBS population in the area.
The building of country houses in former SBS breeding sites is reported from Lakhtina
Lagoon and road construction had transformed the habitat near the town of Egvekinot. Serious damage to several sq km of the best SBS crowberry habitat has been
observed on the spits of Uel'kal' in the North and Meinypilgyno, South Chukotka.
Some influence of habitat transformation by caterpillar tracks, road construction
and gravel collecting in 2005-06 for construction works has influenced
the breeding sites south of Anadyr airport and north at Nikolaya spit.
Despite low human population density in the breeding areas human transformation
may influence some of the best SBS habitat on the spits.

2) Natural predators
Natural predation on the Spoon-billed Sandpiper is lower than in many other Arctic waders. In the southern part of the distribution, there are only Red Foxes (Vulpes vulpes)
and avian predators, such as gulls and skuas.

Fiery fox, Vulpes vulpes
© www.vulkaner.no
In the northern part of the breeding areas, on the Chukchi Peninsula,
Arctic Foxes (Alopex alopex) are responsible for the considerably higher losses of nests and chicks. Between the 1950s and mid 1990s the Arctic Fox population was under
severe pressure from the local population, hunting and trapping foxes along the sea coast, where traditionally the largest proportion of the hunting (80%) has been carried out.

Since the mid 1990s the fox numbers have increased.
The annual hunting bags contained 2200-8100 animals during 1933 and 1988.
After 'perestroika' the price for furs fell sharply and the annual numbers of trapped
foxes declined to only 100- 300 animals
(K.B.Klokov in lit).
Although no exact figures are available it is most likely the foxes have increased sharply. Targeted studies are necessary to confirm the trend and likely impact.
However, the continuing decline of SBS in other areas without any Arctic foxes
invite researchers to look beyond the local predators

Research and monitoring activities, especially the capture of adult breeding
birds on the nest, can cause significant disturbance although is considered
vital for conservation research.

Spoon-billed sandpiper nests only on coastal spits in Kamchatka. . It's the rarest bird of the Arctic: the population
has dropped from 2000 to 200 in six years due to loss of migration stopover sites in Korea.

Photo: From the homepages of Vladimir Dinets

Spoon-billed sandpipers feed on numerous small tundra lakes. They apparently use their weird bills to get tiny
invertebrates from the mud.

Photo: From the homepages of Vladimir Dinets

SBS does react to the presence of observers
and to being caught in the same way as other Calidris waders.
Therefore only experienced, well-instructed and trained researchers
should be allowed to catch and ring these birds.
In several other cases we received reports from taxidermists or oral reports
from local people, who guided well-paying collectors to SBS breeding sites.
Most of these cases have been confirmed by different sources
and there is no doubt about ongoing activities in collecting skins and clutches.
There are at least 3 sites where we failed to find breeding SBS for several years
after visits of collecting expeditions: Kivak Lagoon and Plover Spit near Provideniya,
which were visited by American private collectors, who came via Nome in early 1996-98
and Gek Spit at Anadyr Estuary, visited by a Swiss-French taxidermist expedition
in the mid 1990s.
In the year 2005-06 several private collectors from Western Europe offered
to pay several thousand US for one dead SBS.
The announcement was made through the network of game biologists
and hunting tourism agencies in Moscow, Saint-Petersburg and Anadyr.

Peter Ericsson
Only 200-300 pairs Spoon-billed Sandpiper exist.
(www.BirdLife.org ). A mention that people can sign up to receive our News Stories by email (http://www.birdlife.org/news/subscription.html ) or RRS feed (http://www.birdlife.org/rss/news.xml )
In one case the culprit admitted his activities and mentioned that the value of one clutch would cover his travel expenses plus additional lucrative profits.

Climatic changes:
For the Bering and Chukchi Sea coasts of Chukotka there is evidence of:
1) Decrease of sea ice coverage in June-July, which increases the probability of floods during breeding period and wave erosion of best breeding habitat.
2) Rising of the annual and summer temperatures, with changes in vegetation from crowberry tundra to richer, multi-layered bushy vegetation much less suitable
as habitat for the species.
3) Decrease of precipitation in both winter and spring, with a drying of the tundra habitat, which has been observed already.
Local authorities in Anadyr report an increase in tundra fires around Anadyr
over the last 20 years.
A recent study carried out at the University at Fairbanks in neighbouring Alaska
concluded that Arctic lakes are drying up with a loss of lake surface area
of 11% since 1973
(Hinzman et al. 2005).

© Copyright
Waterbirds around the world
A global overview of the conservation,
management and research of the world's waterbird flyways

Text from:
International Single species Action Plan
for the Conservation of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Eurynorhynchus pygmeus

Consultation Draft
© Copyright

October 12th, 2007
Only 200-300 pairs are believed to be left of this charismatic wader and recent
research in the Chukotka region in north-eastern Siberia indicates a 70% decline
at some nesting sites over the last couple of years. Loss of breeding grounds
and habitat destruction on migration stop-over and wintering sites, especially
in South Korea and Bangladesh are believed to be the major causes.
BirdLife International press release 12th October 2007


Rare Spoon-Billed Sandpipers Found In Myanmar
February 14, 2008 8:43 a.m. EST
Nidhi Sharma - AHN News Writer

Bangkok, Thailand (AHN) - A conservation group has found 84 spoon-billed sandpipers in a coastal stretch of Myanmar. The discovery in early February comes only months after Russian researchers reported that the numbers
of these little birds is declining rapidly.

According to Britain's conservation group BirdLife International, the numbers of endangered birds,
with speckled brow feathers and a distinctive spoon-shaped bill, had dropped 70 percent in the past few years in their breeding sites in Siberia. Also, there were no birds seen this year in their traditional wintering sites in Bangladesh.

The new discovery in Myanmar is raising hopes that new breeding grounds of this species exist elsewhere. The World Conservation Union lists the bird as endangered with only 200 to 300 pairs
left in the wild.

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