Amongst many other iconic species in the world the Spoon-billed Sandpiper must surely rank within the highest echelon as a species deserving of our attention and support. Thankfully that support now appears to be emerging after a period given over to surveys establishing the pitiful state its population has regrettably reached in recent years.
In 2009 an assessment of its population suggested this to be between 120 and 200 pairs only. Now that figure is believed to be as low as 60 pairs! Breeding in the highest reaches of the Russian Arctic coast the species then winters in areas like Thailand, Vietnam and Bangladesh at inevitable low densities. It would seem to me that it is within such wintering areas that the problems begin. Trapping larger birds in nets apparently, inadvertently, sees this small bird caught up too which, gradually, is contributing to its demise. Loss of habitat, presumably in wintering areas, and the arduous 8000km flight to these wintering grounds are also being blamed as contributory factors.
International efforts are being made this summer to locate birds in the Arctic and to set up a captive breeding programme, aimed at boosting numbers, leading to such birds then being released to the wild. At present no details are available which suggests some attention will also be directed at the "social" aspects contributing to the birds demise, namely getting the trappers on-side and eliminating the devastating contribution such activities make in this sad scenario. Having seen some of the schemes in SE Asia wherein local communities are enlisted to maintain bird species they previously preyed on and, in turn, benefiting from the (birding) tourist income generated, this may well be a candidate for that approach in certain wintering areas. It would be nice to think so.