About the Spoon-billed sandpiper

SBS chick
Spoon-billed sandpiper chick – photo by Elena Lappo

The spoon-billed sandpiper is one of the world’s rarest birds. Listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, it is a small wading bird with the adaptation, unique among its kind, of a spoon-shaped bill fully formed on hatching. It is a long-distance migrant, breeding on the coastal tundra of eastern Russia, and migrating along the Pacific seaboard of Asia to wintering sites in inter-tidal areas of South-East Asia.

The global population was believed to be in the region of 120-220 pairs in 2009, and is declining at ~26% per annum. Without immediate and effective conservation action it is likely to be extinct within the next decade.

The project is in two parts. We will work to reduce hunting on the wintering grounds in Myanmar by supporting impoverished local hunters to develop alternative livelihoods. And being reported on this blog, we will also rapidly develop an emergency conservation-breeding programme to build numbers of birds in captivity, ready for release into the wild in future years.

Numbers of spoon-billed sandpiper have been declining at a rate of twenty percent every year. Experts at WWT think there are fewer than 100 now.

This year we are taking emergency action to mobilise a team to go to Russia to a known breeding site where we know last year there were six pairs.

Once there we hope to find nests, collect eggs, artificially incubate them, hatch the babies and begin the rearing process.

When the chicks are just a few days old, we’re going to take the chicks by boat up the coast to the main town. The chicks will stay there till they are fully feathered (about 28 days) when they will then be transported back to WWT Slimbridge via quarantine in Moscow and the UK. Once there the birds will hopefully become the start of a conservation breeding programme which will ensure the spoon-billed sandpiper has a safety-net, should it go extinct in the wild.

video courtesy of David Sibley

2 Responses to “About the Spoon-billed sandpiper”
  1. Bengt Legnell says:

    It would be so interesting to be able to continue following your work to save this species

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] decline over the past few decades. With a declining population estimated at 250 to 500 birds (or just 100!) the Spoon-billed Sandpiper is in serious trouble. The diminishing number of Spoon-billed […]

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