Spoon-billed Sandpiper numbers update

Spoon-billed Sandpiper © Chris Miller

The bad news is, the Spoon-billed Sandpiper population is still declining, the good news is that it is at a rate of around 8-9% a year and not the 25% it was a few years ago (2009).

Back in the 1970s that estimated population was between 2,000-2,800 pairs. In 2012, that had crashed to an estimated 200 individuals. By 2016 new estimates calculated the number to be 420-456 individuals. The number of birds in the wild is now estimated to be around 770 individuals of all ages. If you compare that to the estimates we had when Wader Quest first started with its fundraising efforts for the WWT captive breeding programme of around 200 individuals, that is cheering news indeed. Clearly, as there is still a decline year on year, this is not due to a growing population but more to do with the added coverage and technological advances being utilised to track and locate Spoon-billed Sandpipers discovering where they spend the winter.

Captive bred Spoon-billed Sandpiper egg hatching © Ben Cherry WWT

More birds being found on the wintering grounds doesn’t correlate with reports that previously occupied territories in Russia are no longer being used, however this decline has been seriously offset by the increase in headstarted birds that have been released back into the wild, widely reported on the wintering grounds and have returned to breed them selves.

Meanwhile the Captive Breeding Programme, the reason that Wader Quest started in the first place, last year successfully fledged two chicks, another positive sign that all our efforts are paying off.

Whilst the species is clearly not yet out of the woods, it is cheering to see that the strategies being put into place to save them from extinction is taking effect. There are positive signs that we may yet reverse the trend and get the population to increase and when that day comes, we will certainly be rejoicing.

Eury the Spoon-billed Sandpiper £7.50 +p&p (UK £2.00; elsewhere please ask) orders to sales@waderquest.net

As part of Wader Quest’s effort to be part of this process we wrote the children’s book Eury the Spoon-billed Sandpiper following a young male Spoon-billed Sandpiper from his egg to producing his first nest of eggs with a mate. The story covers his migration south and some of the hazards and threats he encountered along the way.

Karina of Projeto Aves Limícolas reading Eury to her daughter © Bruno Lima

The original idea was to get the book translated and then distributed along the Spoon-billed Sandpiper’s migration route. This has proved a long process, but we can now show you some evidence that the plan is working despite the Covid restrictions that we have all suffered this last year. The book was translated into Chinese, printed and distributed to schools in China thanks to help from the  SBS in China organisation who organised everything in China.

The translated version of Eury the Spoon-billed Sandpiper being enjoyed by the children of Rudong Shi’ping Primary school © Xiaoyong ZHou

We still have copies of the original English version available for sale. They are suitable to 6-11 year old children. The younger ones will enjoy having it read to them and the older ones reading it themselves.

We also have two items of Wader Quest merchandising which you can buy to help support Wader Quest.

Earrings £10 pair, pin badges £2.00 each. Orders to sales@waderquest.net (both prices +p&p UK £1.00 elsewhere please ask).