The Spoon-billed Sandpiper Eurynorhynchus pygmeus (IUCN Category: Critically Endangered) is in rapid decline. Data from across the entire breeding range (Chukotka and Koryakya in the Russian far north-east) and especially from the well-studied southern core breeding area at Meinypilgyno, confirm the continuing strong decline. At four breeding sites, where more than two counts were available for analysis, the decline was estimated at 26% per annum between 2002 and 2009, or an 88% decline over this period. Allowing for unsurveyed areas, this equates to a decline from a total population of approximately 1,000 breeding pairs in 2000 to 120–220 in 2009. Breeding studies at Meinypilgyno in 2003–2007 (not 2006) showed that the proportion of nests hatching at least one chick was 0.65 and once chicks left the nest, the mean brood size of chicks up to one week old was 1.99. Where it was possible to follow broods, 0.61 chicks fledged per nesting attempt. Survival and recruitment analysis of birds ringed at Meinypilgyno indicated that annual adult survival did not significantly differ over the 2003–2009 study but that recruitment in to the adult breeding population was effectively zero in all but one year of the study (2005). Resighting data for the last two years of the study were sparse due to very low numbers of marked adults being recorded and survival rates over the last 2–3 years of the study must therefore be treated with caution. The analysis therefore indicated that after fledging, survival during immaturity must be very low, leading to a low (or no) recruitment into an ageing population. Recent observations collated from the non-breeding areas confirm the declining trend observed in the breeding areas and imply that the main threats to the population lie along the migration route or in the wintering areas. These are poorly known although hunting in the wintering areas has been identified as a major mortality factor. Other threats include major loss of their intertidal habitats, and collection of birds on the breeding areas by specimen collectors. Improved monitoring in both the breeding and non-breeding areas as well as research on juvenile survival is recommended. Concerted international conservation action is essential if this species is to avoid extinction. This requires (i) improved understanding of the main wintering and staging areas and associated threats; (ii) addressing those threats that can be tackled with immediate effect, such as hunting; (iii) continued long-term monitoring on the breeding areas; (iv) an exploration of other potential breeding areas; (v) conservation action at all important stop-over and wintering sites along the entire flyway and (vi) consideration of a captive-breeding programme to ensure the survival of this species.
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