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Efforts to Save the Spoon-billed Sandpiper

Updated on September 21, 2014

Bird on the edge of extinction

Spoon-billed sandpipers are, regrettably, in the path of extinction. Only a few hundred individuals, perhaps only 60 breeding pairs, if even that, are alive on this Earth. The reason for their decline has to do with increasing human population in their winter range resulting in loss of habitat not only in their home ranges, but on their migration route, too. Hunting directly or indirectly affects this bird as well. Even if the sandpiper is not the direct target for hunters, the bird may fall into traps set for larger prey. The spoon billed sandpiper spends the winter in east Asia in places like Thailand, Myanmar, and Bangladesh. They breed in the summer way up north in Siberia just across the straits from Alaska where they are also occasionally seen.

However, there may be hope for their recovery. Right now, organizations like Bird Life International (Save Spoony) are working to secure the sandpiper's future. They are working with various southeast Asian people and countries to provide protection and a place to live.

They are about the size of a western sandpiper and use their unique shaped bill to feel for food.

***Without intervention, this bird may be extinct by 2018****

The photo for this lens was provided by John Harrison and Wikimedia.

Spoon-billed Sandpiper in Breeding Plumage

Spoon billed sandpiper
Spoon billed sandpiper

In the summer, the spoon-billed sandpiper gets a reddish hue similar to a red knot. Recently a small group of these sandpipers were taken to England for a captive breeding program. Researchers are also working with local people in the birds' range to find better ways to protect them. Already, some habitat has been acquired to be set aside as a preserve for these small birds.

The artwork in this module is in the public domain. It was done by John Gerrard Kuelemans in 1869.

Spoonbill sandpiper by Henry Seebohm
Spoonbill sandpiper by Henry Seebohm

Humans both help and hurt this bird

Scientists are working hard setting up breeding in England and other places to help this species get back on its feet. One of the problems is that hunters and trappers in their breeding and wintering territories accidentally catch and kill this bird. They leave traps to catch other types of more plentiful species of shorebirds, but catch these little guys instead. They end up selling them in markets for the equivalent of a couple of quarters each. Work is currently going on to help find people engaged in this activity find another way to make a living.

Most of the threats to this species are in its winter feeding range. It's summer breeding range is in the arctic tundra of Russia where few people live. Very little studies have been done in their breeding range until recently, such as when the first even spoon-billed sandpiper nest was filmed.

The species is said to have never really been all too common in the first place, but increased hunting pressure in its southern range, as well as expanding human population using more and more of their breeding range makes it hard to recover.

See the videos below on how organizations are helping this bird.

Photo is a drawing by Henry Seebohm, done in 1890.

Places to see Spoon-Billed Sandpiper Photos

There are not a lot of free images that I could use for this lens due to copyright reasons. So, here are some links to the best spoon billed sandpiper photos I could find on the internet so far.

Spoon billed sandpiper videos

Here are a few Youtube videos of spoon billed sandpipers. I will try to add more later on if I find them. I especially like the ones with the little chicks. I like that there's one with an actual nest in the wild. There are a few on courtship and other breeding behavior. I hope you enjoy them, too.

Items on endangered and nearly extinct animals

Help add to your library or collection these items on endangered animals and how to help them.

Atlas of Rare Birds (The MIT Press)
Atlas of Rare Birds (The MIT Press)

Over 200 photos of rare and almost extinct birds with maps on where to find them. There are also success stories and stories about birds that most people might have never heard of before.

Hope Is the Thing with Feathers: A Personal Chronicle of Vanished Birds
Hope Is the Thing with Feathers: A Personal Chronicle of Vanished Birds

Stories of birds that have gone extinct very recently and the people who have tried to save them. This book reminds you not to take common animals for granted and don't assume they've recovered from near-extinction even when numbers seem better.


Read about the spoon billed sandpiper

Here are a few sites where you can read about the sandpiper and its conservation. I will try to find more articles and information as it comes about.

How you can help

Organizations involved with this little bird desperately need money to help save them. Here's a list of sites where you can donate to help the spoon-billed sandpiper. It's important to check out each organization before donating. None of these organizations have any association with the author of this page.

Because of the locations of the organizations, most donations have to be made in British pounds. Contact the organization to find out how to donate in other types of currencies.

What ways do you think will help the spoon billed sandpiper? I sure hope this bird doesn't go the way of the Eskimo curlew or the passenger pigeon.

Help Save the Spoon-Billed Sandpiper

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    • fbcivcoming profile image


      5 years ago

      Nicely done. I love to learn something new everyday and today this is it. It's sad how all across the globe stories like this are so common. Unfortunately, most don't even know of the victims of our negligence!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      We need to manage our expansion to be in harmony with preserving nature.


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