posted February 25th, 2010; last edited April 27th, 2012 –– David Sibley

Spoon-billed Sandpiper  Eurhynorhynchus pygmeus

Spoon-billed Sandpiper at Pak Thale, Thailand, Feb 2010. Photo copyright David Sibley.

This species has always been a favorite, with its unique bill shape and an air of mystery – a rare species nesting in easternmost Siberia within sight of Alaska and wintering in and near Myanmar. Recent population declines and the possibility of imminent extinction have only increased the mystery and appeal of the bird.

Click here for a Google map of the known range of Spoon-billed Sandpiper

September 2010 update

There’s good news and bad news for the critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper. The bad news is that the world’s population is still critically low, and recent studies by Christoph Zockler et al. (2010, pdf here) point to hunting pressures on the wintering grounds in Myanmar as a major cause of declines. The good news is that Zockler’s team has had a lot of success in reducing the hunting of small shorebirds there – through education and incentives – and a major effort is planned for this coming winter.

Seeing Spoon-billed Sandpiper

For birders who want to see the species, Thailand is still the easiest place to do that (my post on finding them in Thailand is here), but two new tours offer something extra and support conservation at the same time:

A tour to Myanmar in winter in January 2011 travels to the region where most of the remaining Spoon-billed Sandpipers winter, and allows birders access to the wintering grounds as well as a first-hand look at the conservation and education efforts there.

A cruise to Siberia in June-July 2011 offers a very rare opportunity to see Spoon-billed Sandpipers at one of their isolated nesting sites.

To whet your appetite, check out this video by David Erterius:

Spoon-billed Sandpiper – singing male by David Erterius on YouTube

Conservation

An overview of the issues is in my post here.

What you can do:

Donate to Birdlife International’s Preventing Extinctions program
Help spread the word and urge protection of Asia’s coastal wetlands

Zockler et al. 2010. Rapid and continued population decline in the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Eurynorhynchus pygmeus indicates imminent extinction unless conservation action is taken. Bird Conservation International (2010), 20: 95-111. pdf here

For detailed information on status and conservation see the 2008 draft Action Plan (pdf) (Zöckler, C., E.E. Syroechkovski & G.C. Bunting. 2008)

Lots of technical info and links to reports are available online at Christof Zöckler’s Spoon-billed Project site at ArcCona.

A detailed summary is at Birdlife International and more in their Red Data Book.

An excellent series of interviews on the blog 10,000 Birds:

The Spoon-billed Sandpiper: Part One

Spoon-billed Sandpiper: Part two – interview with Christoph Zöckler

Spoon-billed Sandpiper: Part three – interview with Nial Moores

Spoon-billed Sandpiper: Part four – interview with Phil Round

Spoon-billed Sandpiper: Part five – Interview with Pieter Wessels

A detailed account of the 1978 British Columbia record is given by Sauppe et al, 1978 (pdf here)

Dixon, J. 1918. The nesting grounds and nesting habits of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper. Auk 35: 387-404 (pdf here) – A detailed account of the 1915 record at Wainwright, Alaska, and early observations of nesting and singing habits in Siberia.

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