Spoon-billed Sandpipers (Eurynorhynchus pygmeus)

The Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Eurynorhynchus pygmeus, is a small wader. It belongs to the calidrid sandpipers, but its placement inside this group is not resolved.

While it is usually assigned to the monotypic (one single species) genus Eurynorhynchus, its pecular morphological adaptations and equivocal DNA sequence data (Thomas et al., 2004) preclude determination of closest relatives and evolutionary history at present.

Spoon-billed Sandpiper

The most peculiar feature of this species is its spatulate bill. The bird is 14–16 cm in length. The breeding adult has a red-brown head, neck and breast with dark brown streaks. It has blackish upperparts with buff and pale rufous fringing. Non-breeding adults lack the reddish coloration, but have pale brownish-grey upperparts with whitish fringing to wing-coverts. The underparts are white.

This bird’s breeding habitat is sea coasts and adjacent hinterland on the Chukchi Peninsula and southwards along the isthmus of the Kamchatka peninsula.

The Spoon-billed Sandpiper migrates down the Pacific coast through Japan, North Korea, South Korea and China, to its main wintering grounds in South and South-East Asia, where it has been recorded from India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore.

This bird is endangered, with a current population of less than 2500 – probably less than 1000 – mature individuals. The main threats to its survival are habitat loss on its breeding grounds and loss of tidal flats through its migratory and wintering range. The 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.

Protected areas in its staging and wintering areas include Yancheng in China, Mai Po Marshes in Hong Kong and Point Calimere and Chilka lake in India.