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It’s a bird with a “spoon” for a bill, but though this bird does use its spoon-bill for eating, we’ll learn in a paper by Kelly and colleagues1 in this issue of Wader Study that this bird does not use its bill like a spoon. The Spoon-billed Sandpiper is a small wader that breeds in NE Russia and winters in SE Asia. It is one of the world’s best known waders, despite being one of the world’s rarest birds, but it would be pretty plain if not for its distinctive spatulate bill. It is this bill that fascinates birders and bird scientists alike, because the Spoon-billed Sandpiper is the only wader species in the world to have evolved a spoon-shaped bill – and that raises the tantalizing question: Why? Kelly, Zöckler, Scampion and Syroechkovskiy tackle this mystery through an impressive set of observations collected through all stages of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper’s life cycle. They synthesize these observations into six feeding techniques that explain how these waders use their remarkable bills. Then they use these newly described feeding behaviors to discuss how and why the spoon-shaped bill might have evolved. To begin, the researchers present a detailed description of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper’s extraordinary bill. Upon close inspection, it is rather more like a spatula than a spoon. Its tip is expanded sideways into two triangles with rounded outer edges that slope downwards slightly. [caption id="attachment_10078" align="alignnone" width="700"] Spoon-billed Sandpiper on its Arctic breeding grounds in Chukotka, Meinopylgino, Russia 3 July 2012 (photo: B. Scampion)[/caption] Though this clearly looks very different from other Calidris sandpiper bills from the outside, the authors point out that when the bird opens its bill it is possible to see the outline of the basic sandpiper bill within (see their Fig. 1). However, the bill of Spoon-billed Sandpiper also differs from other sandpipers in several important respects: (1) the bill is expanded at the base as well as the tip, giving the birds a broader tongue, (2) there are more epidermal papillae (which help to keep food moving backward while the tongue is moving in both directions), (3) there is a larger than usual concentration of Herbst corpuscles (nerve endings that may help birds to sense prey under wet sand or soil2) at the bill tip. These intriguing differences likely relate to how the bill is used. So how do Spoon-billed Sandpipers use their bill for feeding? Answering this question took years of careful observation, both at breeding areas in Russia and at non-breeding areas in Bangladesh, Thailand, Myanmar and China. During this extensive fieldwork spanning from 2003 to 2017, the researchers also collected more than 1000 photos and videos. Using this treasure trove of field observations, the authors first define behavioural elements (which are not in themselves feeding techniques): Concertinaing, Grandstanding, Pirouetting, Jumpback and Transitting (the paper provides detailed descriptions in Table 1 and photo examples of birds performing these behaviours). The authors then use these fascinating behavioural elements to describe six specific feeding techniques (nicely summarized in their Table 2):
  1. Selectively pecking: Steady forward pecking in mud or shallow water.
  2. Sweep-stitching: A stitching movement along the axis of the bill combined with a sideways motion at the highest point in the “stitch”. This technique is unique to Spoon-billed Sandpipers. Other Calidrids use similar techniques, but no other creates the impression of sideways sweeping.
  3. Burst-stitching: Similar to sweep-stitching, but with less side to side movement.
  4. Spear-hunting or ‘hammering’: A technique in which the bird grandstands and then ‘hammers’ their bill into the water or substrate.
  5.  Stabbing: Like burst-stitching, but more forceful and with the bill closed when it is inserted into the substrate.
  6. Hoovering: A technique where only the bill tip is inserted into the substrate and the bird makes very rapid but shallow stitching movements creating the impression of hoovering/vacuuming the substrate.
The authors then discuss these techniques within the context of previously published hypotheses of how the Spoon-billed Sandpiper’s bill might be used for food intake like a shovel, a hoe, a mousetrap and a biofilm grazer. Then they develop their own metaphors for how the birds use their spoon-shaped bill like a hammer, a filter and a microphone. The hammer. A hammer is a tool with a heavy head used for jobs like breaking things or driving objects into a surface. Spoon-billed sandpipers use their bill like a hammer to forcefully immobilize prey while spear-hunting or ‘hammering’ and also during stabbing. But other species do this too and the authors argue that there is no firm link between the spoon-billed structure and better success in direct hits of larger prey. The Filter. A filter is a porous device that serves to remove solid particles from a liquid (or gas) that is passed through it. The bill may act like a filter to harvest small food items, especially when feeding on biofilm. The idea, proposed by Danny Rogers in 2007, is that the sandpipers use their bill like a Dutch hoe (a garden tool with a blade that is similar in shape to the bill) to liquefy the substrate and immobilizes prey. Prey are then filtered from the liquid using the epidermal papillae and the large tongue as a pump. The authors conclude that this hypothesis has traction and might have contributed to the evolution of the bill shape, but perhaps in combination with the bill first being used as a microphone (sensor) to detect prey. The Microphone. A sound microphone detects changes in pressure (sound waves) and turns them into something else (electrical signals), these signals then move to an amplifier or a recording device. The Spoon-billed Sandpiper’s bill does not detect sound waves, but rather it acts as a microphone by acting as a sensor to detect changes in pressure. The Herbst corpuscles are used to detect pressure gradients at various locations on the bill surface. The bird then detects obstructing objects (prey) that have caused a disturbance in this pressure map. The fact that Spoon-billed Sandpipers have much higher numbers of Herbst corpuscles than related sandpiper species is circumstantial evidence that pressure sensing might have been involved in the evolution of their bill shape. In addition, the part of the bill containing the Herbst corpuscles is thicker than the rest of the bill, which might enhance the pulse and amplify the signal. Also the canted angle of the front edges and the soft corners of the bill might reduce turbulence. Examined in this context, feeding techniques such as pecking, stitching and stabbing could be used to generate a disturbance in the pressure field. This disturbance would make it possible for birds to detect prey based on directional cues enhanced by the laterally expanded bill. Hoovering might also be a method of pressure sensing near surface level with lighter impact pecks generating smaller pressure waves to detect items at close range. Using the bill like a pressure sensor might be particularly useful in muddy substrates where the technique would allow effective spear-hunting without the bird needing to visually see the prey. The authors conclude that the pressure-sensing hypothesis (the bill as a microphone) seems to be the most compelling as an explanation for how small but incremental lateral enlargements of the bill might have provided a selective advantage. Using their bills like a microphone, birds with broader bills might have possessed greater ability to detect and capture prey, enjoyed better survival, and produced more chicks with spoon-bills. Of course all of these arguments make the reasonable assumption that the bill shape is a specific adaptation for feeding. The authors do not discuss the possibility that the Spoon-bill Sandpiper’s bill might have some other adaptive value, such as for thermoregulation3. Or that the bill might not be adaptive at all. Odd things happen in nature all the time. Take for example an astonishingly long Eurasian Oystercatcher bill also described in this issue of Wader Study4. Is this adaptive? What would happen if females started to find this male incredibly attractive and he produced many offspring? In a recent book5, Richard Prum –building on Darwin’s ideas about mate choice – proposed that some traits might have nothing to do with functionality, but rather evolved through pure aesthetics. If the Spoon-billed Sandpiper’s bill serves only to attract mates then it might even contribute to the species’ small population size; sexual selection and extinction risk can be related6. Another possibility is that the bill has no real benefit, but is not sufficiently maladaptive to be removed by natural selection. Such evolutionary oddities have the greatest chance of arising and persisting in small populations, which may explain other traits of unclear function, such as the equally peculiar apparatus of the Wrybill. The truth is we just don’t know, but Kelly and colleagues give us much to think about.
  1. Kelly, C., C. Zöckler, B. Scampion & E. E. Syroechkovskiy. 2017. Hammer, Filter or Microphone – How does the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Calidris pygmaea use its bill to feed? Wader Study 124(2): 99–104.
  2. Piersma, T., R. van Aelst, K. Kurk, H. Berkhoudt, & L. R. M. Maas, Leo R. M. 1998. A New Pressure Sensory Mechanism for Prey Detection in Birds: The Use of Principles of Seabed Dynamics? Proceedings: Biological Sciences265(1404): 1377–1383.
  3. Tattersall, G.J., B. Arnaout & M.R. Symonds. 2017. The evolution of the avian bill as a thermoregulatory organ. Biological Reviews 92: 1630–1656.
  4. Cooney T. 2017. Extraordinary bill abnormality in a Eurasian Oystercatcher. Wader Study 124(1): 155–156.
  5. Prum, R. O. 2017. The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin’s forgotten theory of mate choice shapes the animal world - and us. New York: Doubleday.
  6. Kokko, H., & R. Brooks. 2003. Sexy to die for? Sexual selection and the risk of extinction. Annales Zoologici Fennici 40: 207–219.
PDF is available here.
Spotlight: Not a spoon, but maybe a hammer, filter, or microphone

It’s a bird with a “spoon” for a bill, but though this bird does use its spoon-bill for eating, we’ll learn in a paper by Kelly and colleagues1 in this issue of Wader Study that this bird does not use its bill like a spoon. The Spoon-billed Sandpiper is a small wader that breeds in NE Russia and winters in SE Asia. It is one of the world’s best known waders, despite being one of the world’s rarest birds, but it would be pretty plain if not for its distinctive spatulate bill. It is

In  2018 the International Wader Study Group organizes their annual conference in Fryslân, The Netherlands. The #IWSG2018 conference will be held in Workum, in the province of Friesland, The Netherlands. Approximate dates: Friday 28 September to Monday 1 October 2018. In 2018, the conference will liaise with activities around Leeuwarden, Friesland being European Capital of Culture 2018  and activities of the citizen movement King of the Meadow. You can follow announcements at @KeningGreide and @WaderStudy. (The feature photo is taken by Peter van de Beek)  
First announcement of IWSG Conference 2018

In  2018 the International Wader Study Group organizes their annual conference in Fryslân, The Netherlands. The #IWSG2018 conference will be held in Workum, in the province of Friesland, The Netherlands. Approximate dates: Friday 28 September to Monday 1 October 2018. In 2018, the conference will liaise with activities around Leeuwarden, Friesland being European Capital of Culture 2018  and activities of the citizen movement King of the Meadow. You can follow announcements at @KeningGreide

Time is flying very quickly, first waders are flocking at post-breeding sites and the Prague conference is nearly ahead!

Several updates should be highlighted: 1) We are happy to announce five excellent plenary speakers! See more about them and their talks here: http://www.waderstudygroup.org/conferences/2017/#8 2) Just before the conference, you have an opportunity to participate in one of three interesting workshops: http://www.waderstudygroup.org/conferences/2017/#5 3) During the conference, Meopta, the top-class binoculars producer, will present and sell their excellent binoculars and scopes. http://www.meoptasportsoptics.com/en/?interestTopic=1 4) After the conference, you can enjoy one of five excursion options: http://www.waderstudygroup.org/conferences/2017/#9 5) You can bring with you any short movie about shorebirds, your video records from the field etc. with English subtitles or records which do not need any comment and we will broadcast it on a big screen during our common breakfasts. Let us know about your contribution in advance. We are not going to reveal more about IWSG conference in Prague right now, you must come and experience! For those remaining ones who have not done it so far, please don’t forget to register and submit your abstract before the deadline 31 July 2017. We are looking forward to meet you in Prague! Featured image: Juvenile of the Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) in the Czech Republic. © Vojtěch Kubelka.
See 2017 IWSG conference in Prague updates

Time is flying very quickly, first waders are flocking at post-breeding sites and the Prague conference is nearly ahead! Several updates should be highlighted: 1) We are happy to announce five excellent plenary speakers! See more about them and their talks here: http://www.waderstudygroup.org/conferences/2017/#8 2) Just before the conference, you have an opportunity to participate in one of three interesting workshops: http://www.waderstudygroup.org/conferences/2017/#5 3) During the conference,

Below the latest news on the AWSG Whimbrel project edited by  Katherine Leung, to follow on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AWSG.sat.tag/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel#

Busy breeding

It has been quite a while since our last updates and we are delighted to see that both KS and KU have reached their breeding sites! KS and KU have chosen different area to nest and their nesting area are approximately 630km apart from each other in the Sakha Republic, Russia. [caption id="attachment_9735" align="aligncenter" width="615"] Breeding location of KS and KU in Sakha Republic, Russia. AWSG Satellite Transmitter Project, ©Katherine Leung, 20 June 2017.[/caption] KS reached the west of Momskiy Mountains in the last week of May. After spending two days there to replenish, it flew 157km east across the 2000m mountains to reach its nesting location. [caption id="attachment_9734" align="aligncenter" width="615"] KS flew across Momskiy Mountains. AWSG Satellite Transmitter Project, ©Katherine Leung, 20 June 2017.[/caption] Within a few days after arrival, KS has decided its nesting area. The movement of KS in its first week of arrival was quite extensive, covering up to an area of 500km2. Moving on to the second week, movement significantly shrunk to less than 100km2. Movement further limited to a 5km x 5km area in the third week indicating that KS is highly likely nesting. [caption id="attachment_9733" align="aligncenter" width="615"] Movement of KS around nesting location: Week 1: 30-May to 5-Jun. AWSG Satellite Transmitter Project, ©Katherine Leung, 20 June 2017.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_9732" align="aligncenter" width="615"] Movement of KS around nesting location: Week 2: 6-Jun to 12-Jun. AWSG Satellite Transmitter Project, ©Katherine Leung, 20 June 2017.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_9731" align="aligncenter" width="615"] Movement of KS around nesting location: Week 3: 13-Jun to 19-Jun. AWSG Satellite Transmitter Project, ©Katherine Leung, 20 June 2017.[/caption] KU also arrived at its potential breeding area in late May. However, it then spent over 1.5 weeks exploring the area on both sides of a mountain before it finally decided its nesting area 17km north of the mountain, 27km west to River Yana. [caption id="attachment_9730" align="aligncenter" width="615"] KU exploring its breeding area between 25-May and 5-Jun. AWSG Satellite Transmitter Project, ©Katherine Leung, 20 June 2017.[/caption] Also within a week after arrival, a significant change in area of movement is observed. In the first week, KU moved in a wider area of up to 520km2. Afterwards, it settled down in the second week within a 13km x 10km area. [caption id="attachment_9738" align="aligncenter" width="615"] Movement of KU around nesting location: Week 1: 7-Jun to 13-Jun. AWSG Satellite Transmitter Project, ©Katherine Leung, 20 June 2017.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_9737" align="aligncenter" width="615"] Movement of KU around nesting location: Week 2: 14-Jun to 19-Jun. AWSG Satellite Transmitter Project, ©Katherine Leung, 20 June 2017.[/caption] In the coming weeks, both KS and KU will be busy nesting and incubating their eggs. Later on their movement pattern might change again indicating fledging of their youngs. On top of KS and KU which successfully made their journey to the breeding ground, we still regularly receive signals from both LA (at Eighty Mile Beach) and JX (at Palawan, the Philippines).

As of 20 June 2017:

[caption id="attachment_9736" align="aligncenter" width="683"] Migration tracks of tagged Whimbrels. AWSG Satellite Transmitter Project, ©Katherine Leung, 20 June 2017.[/caption]  
Leg Flag (track colour) No. of days since deployment No. of days since migration started Distance travelled
LA (blue) 128 days 0 days 0 km
KS (purple) 116 days 65 days 10,412 km
KU (yellow) 116 days 64 days 9,904 km
JX (pink) 87 days 61 days 3,049 km
    Katherine Leung 20 June 2017   Featured image: KS Whimbrel photographed in Yilan County, Taiwan on 26 April 2017, ©Lin Jer An
“Busy breeding” | 5th project update on the NW Australia satellite tagged Whimbrels

Below the latest news on the AWSG Whimbrel project edited by  Katherine Leung, to follow on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AWSG.sat.tag/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel# Busy breeding It has been quite a while since our last updates and we are delighted to see that both KS and KU have reached their breeding sites! KS and KU have chosen different area to nest and their nesting area are approximately 630km apart from each other in the Sakha Republic, Russia. KS reached the west of Momskiy

Kamchatka Great Knot reaches the Arabian Gulf! The largest known wader stopover on the Western coast of Kamchatka peninsula attracts up to 28,000 waders annually during peack migration. With Black tailed-godwit, Great knot are among the most common species which stopover there from the end of June until the middle of September. Readers of  Wader Study and those who have been to an IWSG conference may be familiar with the work of Dmitry Dorofeev (All-Russian Research Institute for Environmental Protection) and his colleagues who work on the estuary Khairusova-Belogolovaya river, Last year Dmitry and his team colour-markeded approximately 320 Great Knots and 60 Black-tailed Godwits. This has already produced valuable results, including 30 re-sightings from Japan, Korea and Australia. Perhaps the most interesting and unexpected re-sighting is one that was recently submitted from an estuary on Arabian Gulf coast of the United Arab Emirates, some 8300km away from the Kamchatka ringing location, as Dmitry & Oscar Campbell tell us in an article published on the Ornithological Society of the Middle East’s website. This re-sighting is of particular interest as it is the first confirmation obtained that Great Knots staging in Kamchatka reach as far west as the Arabian Gulf. Continue to read the full article of Dmitry & Oscar there: http://www.osme.org/content/russia-love-or-least-ring-kamchatka-great-knot-reaches-arabian-gulf This picture shows an E1 Great Knot with Bar-tailed Godwits and Crab Plovers, at at Khor al Beida, United Arab Emirates, on 20 January 2017:   [caption id="attachment_9661" align="aligncenter" width="330"] E1 Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris at Khor al Beida, UAE on 20 January 2017, ©Oscar Campbell.[/caption]   You can also view this interesting MBZ film about their work and this resighting: https://youtu.be/ucTMKBdUxAo Learn more about Dmitry’s research on the Global Flyaway ecology - Team Piersma website: https://teampiersma.org/about/dmitry-dorofeev/   Related Dmitry’s publications & communications: Dorofeev, D.S. & Kazansky, F.V. (2013) Post-breeding stopover sites of waders in the estuaries of the Khairusovo, Belogolovaya and Moroshechnaya rivers, western Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia, 2010–2012. Wader Study Group Bull. 120(2): 119–123. http://www.waderstudygroup.org/publications/bulletin/bulletin-vol-120/bulletin-vol-120-issue-2/ Dorofeev, D. S., Crighton, P. & Dobrynin, D. (2016) Migration ecology of waders in the Khairusova-Belogolovaya estuary (Western Kamchatka, Russia) with a focus on Great Knots Calidris tenuirostris – species composition, seasonal dynamics, resighting data and food availability. International Wader Study Group Conference 2016 9–12 September 2016 Trabolgan, Cork, Ireland. http://www.waderstudygroup.org/article/8942/
Kamchatka Great Knot reaches as far west as the Arabian Gulf

Kamchatka Great Knot reaches the Arabian Gulf! The largest known wader stopover on the Western coast of Kamchatka peninsula attracts up to 28,000 waders annually during peack migration. With Black tailed-godwit, Great knot are among the most common species which stopover there from the end of June until the middle of September. Readers of  Wader Study and those who have been to an IWSG conference may be familiar with the work of Dmitry Dorofeev (All-Russian Research Institute for Environmental

Turau meadows is one of the most important wader breeding sites in Belarus including large populations of Great snipe Gallinago media, Black-tailed godwit Limosa limosa, largest Belarus breeding populations of Terek sandpiper Xenus cinereus, Ringed plover Charadrius hiaticula, and Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus.
While Turau meadows is also known as the largest stopover site for the Ruff Calidris pugnax during their spring migration across Europe, at the end of April this year the numbers were a surprise to everyone. A group of ornithologists, including researchers from APB -BirdLife Belarus and Turov Ringing Station (NAS of Belarus), registered a record number of 120,000 Ruffs in a single day!
Read the full story here: http://www.birdlife.org/europe-and-central-asia/news/record-breaking-120000-ruffs-counted-belarus
Featured image: Ruffs on Turau Meadow ©Victor Natykanets
Record-breaking 120,000 Ruffs counted in Belarus

Turau meadows is one of the most important wader breeding sites in Belarus including large populations of Great snipe Gallinago media, Black-tailed godwit Limosa limosa, largest Belarus breeding populations of Terek sandpiper Xenus cinereus, Ringed plover Charadrius hiaticula, and Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus. While Turau meadows is also known as the largest stopover site for the Ruff Calidris pugnax during their spring migration across Europe, at the end of April this year the numbers

The 17th Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force (SBS TF) News Bulletin is now available here. To read previous news bulletins and find out more about Spoon-billed Sandpiper, please visit the SBS TF page of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership. Contents of the The 17th SBS TF News Bulletin:
  • Foreword from the Editor
  • Guest Editorial by Minister Min Kyi Win
  • Workshop on SBS National Action Plan in Mawlamyine, Myanmar
  • 11th SBS Task Force Meeting in Mawlamyine, Myanmar
  • Gulf of Mottama Survey – a personal account
  • New Wintering site in Tanintharyi, Myanmar
  • China-Russia Bilateral Meeting and field Survey in Jiangsu Province
  • Spoon-billed Sandpiper in South China – update
  • Results from Satellite tagged Spoon-billed Sandpiper
  • China adds critical sites in the Yellow Sea to the World Heritage Tentative List
  • Survey of southward migrating waders Kamchatka late summer 2016
  • SBS and People: Pyae Phyo Aung
  • SBS and People: Saw Moses
  • How many Spoon-billed Sandpipers are there?
  • Two new major donors from America
  Featured image: Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Calidris pygmaea.®Harrison, J. J. Pak Thale, Petchaburi, Thailand, January 2013.
17th Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force News Bulletin available

The 17th Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force (SBS TF) News Bulletin is now available here. To read previous news bulletins and find out more about Spoon-billed Sandpiper, please visit the SBS TF page of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership. Contents of the The 17th SBS TF News Bulletin: Foreword from the Editor Guest Editorial by Minister Min Kyi Win Workshop on SBS National Action Plan in Mawlamyine, Myanmar 11th SBS Task Force Meeting in Mawlamyine, Myanmar Gulf of Mottama Survey –

Based on decades of bird counting effort by volunteers across Australia and New Zealand, Dr Studds from University of Maryland (Blatimore, US) and their co-authors have assessed population trends of ten shorebird taxa that refuel on Yellow Sea tidal mudflats. After accounting for the shared evolutionary history among taxa, migration distance, breeding range size, non-breeding location, generation time and body size, they found  that Yellow Sea reliance was the single most important predictor of variation in population trends. In other words, more a species relies on the the disappearing Yellow Sea mudflats, the faster they are declining! "Scientists have long believed that loss of these rest stops could be related to the declines, but there was no smoking gun,” Dr Studds said. Full article published in Nature Communications: Studds, C.E., Kendall, B.E., Murray, N.J., Wilson, H.B., Rogers, D.I., Clemens, R.S., Gosbell, K., Hassell, C.J., Jessop, R., Melville, D.S., Milton, D.A., Minton, C.D.T., Possingham, H.P., Riegen, A.C., Straw, P., Woehler, E.J. & Fuller, R.A. (2017) Rapid population decline in migratory shorebirds relying on Yellow Sea tidal mudflats as stopover sites. Nature Communications, 8, 14895. Interview of the authors: http://birdlife.org.au/media/loss-of-key-shorebird-refuelling-areas/ [caption id="attachment_9457" align="aligncenter" width="330"] Total abundance between 1993 and 2012 for ten EAAF migratory shorebird taxa. ©Nature communication.[/caption] Featured image: Far Eastern Curlew are among studied shorebird species with the hightest Yellow Sea reliance. Far Eastern Curlew Numenius madagascariensis. ©Kenji Nishikawa, September 2010.
New study highlights vital importance of Yellow Sea

Based on decades of bird counting effort by volunteers across Australia and New Zealand, Dr Studds from University of Maryland (Blatimore, US) and their co-authors have assessed population trends of ten shorebird taxa that refuel on Yellow Sea tidal mudflats. After accounting for the shared evolutionary history among taxa, migration distance, breeding range size, non-breeding location, generation time and body size, they found  that Yellow Sea reliance was the single most important predictor of

      A handful of red knots with the tiniest transmitters on their backs have left Mauritania, where they spent the winter, and are now heading north. For the first time, the cutting-edge solar-powered transmitters allow scientists to track and trace the exact whereabouts of these small shorebirds migrating from Africa to the Arctic. The birds are expected to stop over to feed in the Wadden Sea, the plentiful mudflats on the Dutch-German-Danish coast that fall dry during low tide. Professor Theunis Piersma, bird migration ecologist at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ) and University of Groningen, hopes to find out how each bird uses the various ecosystems on its route. The data could unveil whether and how the birds’ behaviours are affected by human wadden systems management and climate change.   [caption id="attachment_9392" align="aligncenter" width="330"] Red knot with satellite transmitter just released at Banc d'Arguin, Mauritania (photo: Benjamin Gnep).[/caption]

Unburdenend by featherlight transmitters

In January, the birds were equipped with the lightest satellite transmitters currently available: only two grams, including battery and solar panel. Apparently unburdened, the birds immediately surprised the scientists by moving around at far longer distances across their winter habitats than previously thought based on the well-known method of colour-ring observations.

Interconnected ecosystems and climate change

Theunis Piersma, the leader of this project, hopes that these ‘satellite knots’ will show the connections between West Africa, the North-West-European Wadden Sea and the breeding areas in Siberia. 'Now that the transmitters have become so light that even knots can fly with it, we can see in unprecedented detail how the birds make use of all these interconnected areas. They can show us how changes in one area affect ecosystems elsewhere. In our rapidly changing world it is extremely valuable that this advanced technology allows us to collect this vital information as soon as possible.'

Join the birds online

The general public can follow the movements of the birds across the globe on the website www.waddenflyways.nl. Which birds make it to their breeding grounds and back and how do they do it? The comments of scientists along the route are made available via blogs on the website.   Map with live tracking-data and blogs: www.waddenflyways.nl [caption id="attachment_9397" align="aligncenter" width="330"] Map with live tracking-data and blogs at https://www.nioz.nl/en/waddenflyways[/caption]   More information: Kim Sauter, head of communications NIOZ, kim.sauter@nioz.nl 00 31 6 25 32 60 70 Theunis Piersma, bird migration ecologist NIOZ, theunis.piersma@nioz.nl www.nioz.nl April 24th 2017   Featured photo: Recently sat-tagged red knot in Mauretania, West-Africa | Picture: Benjamin Gnep
New bird-watching: Track & Trace migrating birds with featherlight satellite-transmitters

      A handful of red knots with the tiniest transmitters on their backs have left Mauritania, where they spent the winter, and are now heading north. For the first time, the cutting-edge solar-powered transmitters allow scientists to track and trace the exact whereabouts of these small shorebirds migrating from Africa to the Arctic. The birds are expected to stop over to feed in the Wadden Sea, the plentiful mudflats on the Dutch-German-Danish coast that fall dry during low

Of the 28 shorebird species using the Pacific Americas flyway, eleven percent have declined, and none are increasing (43% are stable and 46% have unknown trends). National Audubon Society and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service have announced the release of the new Pacific Americas Shorebird Conservation Strategy, based on the consultation of 85 experts from more than 53 unique institutions in 15 countries. From a selection of 21 target shorebird species (the most representative species), the strategy sets conservation targets, identifies major threats and effective actions needed to restore and maintain shorebird populations throughout the Flyway, between Alaska and Chile. Based on threat-ranking of the Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation, the strategy focuses on the following main identified threats: climate change, development, invasive species and problematic native species, disturbance from recreational activities, water use and management, aquaculture and shoreline and wetland modification. Learn more and read the Strategy at: https://www.shorebirdplan.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Pacific-Americas-Strategy-2016.pdf [caption id="attachment_9360" align="aligncenter" width="330"] Senner, S. E., Andres, B. A. & Gates, H. R. (Eds.) 2016. Pacific Americas shorebird conservation strategy. National Audubon Society, New York, New York, USA. Available at: http://www.shorebirdplan.org.[/caption] Featured photo: Surfbird, Calidris virgata, February 2013 Nicaragua ©JacobKlinger
New Pacific Americas shorebird Conservation Strategy

Of the 28 shorebird species using the Pacific Americas flyway, eleven percent have declined, and none are increasing (43% are stable and 46% have unknown trends). National Audubon Society and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service have announced the release of the new Pacific Americas Shorebird Conservation Strategy, based on the consultation of 85 experts from more than 53 unique institutions in 15 countries. From a selection of 21 target shorebird species (the most representative species), the