The spoon-billed sandpiper is a little wading bird with an incredible and attractive spatula-shaped bill. It is classified under the calidrid sandpiper but it is not closely related to the spoonbill species. Unlike other birds, it emerges from the egg with an already developed spoon-shaped bill. The spoon-billed sandpiper is classified as a critically endangered species with a population of fewer than 2,500. However, its charismatic appearance is one of the factors that have saved it from extinction and now it receives a lot of conservation attention in its habitat range. Work is underway to conserve its habitat and discourage hunting as well as implement a captive breeding program.
4. Physical Description
The most peculiar feature of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper is its spatulate bill. The tip of the beak is flared out into spatula shape such that it is much wider at the end than at the base. An adult bird measures 14 to 16 cm in length and has a plump body, long legs, and round head. The breeding adult has reddish brown head, neck, and breast. The underpart is blackish with buff and pale rufous fringing. A non-breeding adult does not have the reddish coloration but instead has a brown-gray underpart with white fringing wing-coverts. The wings measure 98-105 mm while the bill measures 19-24 mm. The Spoon-billed Sandpiper is similar to other species including the Red-necked stint and Little Stint.
The spoon-billed sandpiper makes different sounds, especially during breeding season. During winter and migration, the sound is limited to just simple calls. During breeding, the male displays over a favored habitat to define its territory and to attract the female. The male performs the display flight by circling the territory and only stops when it pairs up with the female. The spoon-billed sandpiper is a migratory bird and often migrates during winter and in search of breeding grounds.
Just like most wading birds, spoon-billed sandpipers feed on insects and other small invertebrates such as worms. On the breeding ground, they feed on a variety of larval and adult invertebrates such as midges, beetles, and spiders. The spoon-billed sandpiper also feeds on some of the plant material such as grass seeds and berries. During winter and migration, the birds feed on a variety of marine invertebrates such as polychaete worms and shrimps. Spoon-billed sandpipers walk through shallows and wet meadows with their heads down and bills moving side to side during foraging. Their feeding ground includes mudflats and saltpans where invertebrate preys are common.
1. Habitat and Range
The spoon-billed sandpiper has a specialized breeding habitat, utilizing only lagoon spits with dwarf birch as feeding sites. The bird breeds in northeastern Russia along the Chukotsk and Kamchatka Peninsula. During winter, it migrates down the Pacific coast of Russia and the Southeast Asia. The birds rely on intertidal areas of the Yellow Sea during migration. Some of the birds also winter in Myanmar, Bangladesh, and coastal Southern China. The birds are found in coastal tundra near freshwater pools during the summer period. During breeding, Spoon-billed Sandpipers inhabit the coastal tundra near large lagoons. They nest among crowberry plants in sparsely populated areas or in more vegetated lowland tundra.