In search of Spoon-billed Sandpipers Calidris pygmaea and other avian taxa in northwestern Alaska


219 – 227

1 December 20

Sarah T. Saalfeld, Laura Phillips, Stephen C. Brown, Jonathan C. Slaght, Evgeny E. Syroechkovskiy, Elena G. Lappo, Mary Hake, Richard B. Lanctot


Sarah T. Saalfeld
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Migratory Bird Management, 1011 East Tudor Road, MS 201, Anchorage, AK 99503, USA


Public Files

Recent declines of the Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper Calidris pygmaea make documenting the location of all breeding populations essential for recovery efforts. The species is thought to breed only in Russia, but recent habitat modeling and anecdotal observations suggest there may be small populations breeding in Alaska. In 2018, we searched for breeding Spoon-billed Sandpipers in northwestern Alaska by surveying habitats similar to those they occupy in Russia. We also documented the presence of other avian species within this poorly studied region. We conducted 175 point counts at 25 sampling areas within 6 km of the coast and 150 km of Kotzebue, Alaska. While we did not observe any Spoon-billed Sandpipers, we counted 1,450 shorebirds of 20 species and 3,344 non-shorebirds of 57 species; these included 29 species of waterfowl, 9 species of gulls, terns, and jaegers, 4 species of raptors, and 15 species of landbirds. Breeding shorebirds were most prevalent near Sisualik Spit north of Kotzebue, the Baldwin Peninsula, and coastal areas within Cape Krusenstern National Monument. This baseline distribution and abundance information will be helpful when planning/mitigating future developments and assessing the potential impacts of climate change in this region. However, additional surveys are needed to confirm Spoon-billed Sandpipers do not breed here, refine breeding bird distributions, and estimate densities and local population sizes.