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Disappearing Birds

Spoon-billed Sandpiper survey draws a blank

Recent surveys of suspected wintering areas of the globally threatened Spoon-billed Sandpiper Eurynorhynchus pygmeus have failed to find this rare wader.

The international expedition (funded by the German-based Manfred Hermsen Foundation) surveyed a number of sites along the Indian east coast including the Indian Sundarbans (West Bengal) and Lake Chilika (Orissa), where up to 200 birds were reported in 2001. Four birds that had been observed at Point Calimere in December 2004 could not be relocated at this tsunami-devastated site.

With a continuing decline noted on the breeding grounds in 2004, the chances of finding the wintering grounds of the remaining Spoon-billed Sandpiper population remain slim. However, despite its lack of success the expedition did initiate and strengthen local awareness of the species, and widened the network of observers in the region.The failure to locate any Spoon-billed Sandpipers in formerly known wintering areas is of great concern. It highlights the recent decline the species has suffered largely as a result of habitat loss on its breeding, wintering and stopover sites. Fewer than a few thousand individuals of this extraordinary species may now remain, cautioned Dr Stuart Butchart, BirdLife`s Global Species Programme Coordinator.

In 2004 BirdLife uplisted the species to Endangered on the IUCN Red List, and a Spoon-billed Sandpiper Recovery Team was established with the task of co-ordinating the international conservation efforts.

NBObservers are requested to submit all wintering and passage records of the species to: Dr. Christoph Z?ckler (Expedition leader, ArcCona Consulting, Cambridge) mailto:cz@arccona.com

4th July 2014