Monday, 8 November 2010

Spoon-billed sandpiper

Eurynorhynchus pygmeus

Photo by Jan van de Kam (Birds Korea)

Common name:
Order Charadriiformes
Family Scolopacidae

This rare species breeds only in northeastern Siberia, in the Chukchi Peninsula and southwards along the isthmus of the Kamchatka Peninsula. It migrates down the Pacific coast through Japan, Korea and China, to its main wintering grounds in south and south-east Asia, where it has been recorded in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore.

This small sandpiper is 14-16 cm long and has a wingspan of 22-24 cm.

The spoon-billed sandpiper inhabits a very specific breeding habitat, almost exclusively sea-coasts where there are sandy ridges sparsely vegetated by mosses, dwarf willows and grasses, interspersed with or neighbouring to salt marshes and brackish ponds. During winter it prefers mixed sandy tidal mudflats with uneven surface and very shallow water, mainly in the outermost parts of river deltas and outer islands, often with a high sand content and a thin mud layer on top. In same areas may also use saltpans.

They use the bill to probe for small invertebrates. The chicks eat mainly small insects and seeds.

This monogamous bird nests in June–July. They nest on the ground, in areas never more than 6 km away from the sea. The clutch is composed of 4 brownish mottled eggs which are incubated for 19-23 days. The chicks are tended by both parents for another 2 weeks until fledging. In some cases the female leaves the family in the final few days before fledging.

IUCN status – CR (Critically Endangered)
With a population of just 450-1000 individuals, this species is in critical danger of extinction. The main threats to its survival are habitat loss on its breeding grounds and loss of tidal flats throughout its migratory and wintering range. An important staging area at Saemangeum, South Korea, has already been partially reclaimed, and the remaining wetlands are under serious threat of reclamation in the near future. Hunting is also a serious threat in some areas of south-east Asia.

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