Bangladesh has already lost much of its natural forests, grasslands and other habitats, but it remains vitally important for several threatened species. The country’s coastal wetlands support the largest known concentrations of two shorebirds, Spotted Greenshank and Spoon-billed Sandpiper, and the haor wetlands in the north-east support important populations of several other waterbirds, notably Pallas’s Fish-eagle.
Bhutan has an admirable national policy to maintain forests in over 60% of the country, and has an extensive protected areas system. The country is therefore extremely important for the conservation of several threatened montane forest species, and is a stronghold for birds such as Rufous-necked Hornbill. There are also important wintering flocks of Black-necked Crane in several high-altitude valleys.
The tropical rain forests of the Sundaland (or Sundaic) region are being lost at an alarming rate, particularly in the lowlands, and many of the birds which rely on this habitat are threatened. However, the forests are relatively secure in Brunei, and are becoming an increasingly important stronghold for threatened birds such as Storm’s Stork.
Cambodia is the only country in South-East Asia that still has extensive undeveloped wetlands and dry dipterocarp forests, and healthy populations of large waterbirds. The most notable of these are Giant Ibis and Whiteshouldered Ibis, the former of which is now virtually confined to Cambodia, and the country is also a stronghold for Greater Adjutant, Spot-billed Pelican and Bengal Florican. Cambodia has the some of the healthiest populations of vultures in South-East Asia, which are set to become increasingly important because they are isolated from the factors which appear to be causing South Asian vulture populations to crash. The extensive undisturbed moist forests in the Cardamom mountains in the south-west are the global stronghold of Chestnut-headed Partridge.
Natural habitats in China have suffered widespread clearance and degradation, and heavy hunting pressure, but many areas are still immensely rich in wildlife. The mountains support many threatened forest birds, including south-west Chinese endemics such as Chinese Monal and Greyhooded Parrotbill, and south-east Chinese specialities such as White-eared Night-heron and Reeves’s Pheasant. There have been many recent studies of China’s pheasants, but the conservation requirements of the threatened passerines are generally poorly understood. The coastal and riverine wetlands hold large concentrations of cranes and other threatened waterbirds, including the only wild population of Crested Ibis, and almost the entire wintering populations of Oriental Stork, Swan Goose and Siberian Crane. In recent decades, the Chinese government has declared many hundreds of new protected areas, and a logging ban, which provide a major opportunity to ensure the long-term survival of the country’s unique biodiversity. Natural habitats in China have suffered widespread clearance and degradation, and heavy hunting pressure, but many areas are still immensely rich in wildlife. The mountains support many threatened forest birds, including south-west Chinese endemics such as Chinese Monal and Greyhooded Parrotbill, and south-east Chinese specialities such as White-eared Night-heron and Reeves’s Pheasant. There have been many recent studies of China’s pheasants, but the conservation requirements of the threatened passerines are generally poorly understood. The coastal and riverine wetlands hold large concentrations of cranes and other threatened waterbirds, including the only wild population of Crested Ibis, and almost the entire wintering populations of Oriental Stork, Swan Goose and Siberian Crane. In recent decades, the Chinese government has declared many hundreds of new protected areas, and a logging ban, which provide a major opportunity to ensure the long-term survival of the country’s unique biodiversity.
The cities of Hong Kong and Macau lie either side of the Pearl river delta, the largest intertidal area in southern China. Despite the high human population density, both territories have important wetlands. Inner Deep Bay in Hong Kong is well protected, and supports important non-breeding populations of several threatened waterbirds, notably Black-faced Spoonbill. The wetlands in Macau are relatively small, and are under pressure from development, but also support a wintering population of Black-faced Spoonbills.
The wetlands of Taiwan, particularly on the west coast, support nonbreeding populations of several threatened waterbirds, most notably about half of the world population of Black-faced Spoonbill. The only known breeding site of Chinese Crested-tern is on the Mazu Dao islands. The forests of Taiwan support 15 or more endemic species, but there is an extensive network of protected areas and high public awareness of wildlife conservation; only one of these birds is globally threatened, Taiwan Bulbul, and this is because of hybridisation with the closely related Chinese Bulbul, rather than habitat loss.
Threatened birds are found virtually throughout India. Forests in the Western and Eastern Himalayas support groups of species with small and declining ranges, including several partridges and pheasants. The recently rediscovered Forest Owlet inhabits a few forest fragments in Central India, and a group of birds endemic to the Western Ghats are also globally threatened. The grasslands and wetlands of the northern plains are strongholds for birds such as Bengal Florican and Greater Adjutant. Grasslands and semi-deserts in eastern India are vital for Great Indian Bustard and Lesser Florican, and arid thorn forests in the south support the poorly known Jerdon’s Courser and several other threatened birds. The populations of three Gyps vulture species have recently crashed in the subcontinent, for reasons that have yet to be determined. Although India has a well developed protected areas system, there is immense pressure from population growth and economic development, and the country faces a huge challenge to balance human needs with the protection and management of natural habitats.
Indonesia is a vast archipelago of more than 17,000 islands. It is notable for the very high levels of endemism, with many species confined to certain islands or island groups. It supports 117 globally threatened bird species, similar to Brazil but far higher than any other country in the world. Many species unique to the lowland forests of the Sundaland (or Sundaic) region in the west of the country are declining rapidly because of large-scale forest clearance, as well as the effects of forest fires. Some of the birds unique to smaller islands in eastern Indonesia are also being badly affected by deforestation, and several of these islands support remarkable concentrations of highly threatened species, notably Talaud and Sangihe. The keeping of cagebirds is traditional in Indonesia, but some species are currently being captured at unsustainable levels, particularly parrots in eastern Indonesia. There in an urgent need to further develop the national protected areas system, particularly in the east of the country, and to improve controls on the exploitation of forests and other natural resources.
Only limited areas of natural forest and wetlands remain in the lowlands of Japan, and several large waterbirds became extinct there as a result of habitat loss and hunting, including Oriental Stork (as a breeder) and Crested Ibis. The population of Short-tailed Albatross crashed to near extinction because of massive exploitation for its feathers, but careful protection in recent decades has allowed its numbers to slowly recover. Deforestation has now almost ceased in most parts of the country, which has a well developed protected areas system. However, several endemic birds of the Nansei Shoto and Izu islands are highly threatened by localised forest clearance, as well as by introduced predators. Japan still supports some important waterbird populations, notably the remarkable concentrations of wintering cranes at Izumi on Kyushu, and of resident Red-crowned Cranes on Hokkaido, which are conservation success stories but (at least in the case of Izumi) partially reflect a lack of natural wetlands elsewhere in the country.
Most of world’s Black-faced Spoonbills and Chinese Egrets nest on islets off the west coast of Korea, and several of the most important colonies are in North Korea. The spoonbills and egrets fly to intertidal flats on the mainland to feed, and these coastal wetlands are also visited by large numbers of cranes and waterfowl on migration. The Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) is important for many waterbirds, including wintering flocks of cranes and breeding Black-faced Spoonbills; the key sites within this zone need to be protected from development should there be a change in the political situation in Korea in the future. The forests in the north of the Korean peninsula support a breeding population of Scaly-sided Merganser, and Rufous-backed Bunting formerly occurred in the far north-east, but there is little recent information on its status there.
The Yellow Sea wetlands on the western and southern coasts of the Korean peninsula are vital for the migratory waterbirds of the east Asia flyway, including threatened species such as Spotted Greenshank and Spoon-billed Sandpiper, but are steadily being reclaimed for development. The coastal wetlands of South Korea are also important for both Saunders’s and Relict Gulls, and the large concentrations of waterbirds that winter there include most of the global population of Baikal Teal. There are colonies of Black-faced Spoonbills and Chinese Egrets off the west coast, mainly near to the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ), and Styan’s Grasshopper Warblers nest on offshore islets in the south-west. Flocks of White-naped and Redcrowned Cranes winter near to the DMZ, and Hooded Cranes near the south coast.
Laos retains relatively extensive semi-evergreen and dry dipterocarp forests, with important populations of threatened forest birds such as White-winged Duck and Rufous-necked Hornbill. The country is currently developing an extensive protected areas system, but needs to develop the infrastructure to effectively manage these reserves, in particular to control the heavy hunting pressure that has already greatly reduced the populations of most large birds. Laos supports some important waterbird populations, particularly on the floodplains close to the Cambodian border.
Malaysia has important populations of many threatened rain forest birds. These include three species which are endemic to the Malaysian peninsula, the montane Mountain Peacock-pheasant and Malayan Whistling-thrush, and the lowland Malaysian Peacock-pheasant, and several which are confined to the island of Borneo. Natural forests have been reduced and degraded in many parts of the country and, although the rate of deforestation has slowed in peninsular Malaysia, logging and forest conversion to plantations are still affecting large areas of East Malaysia. The coastal wetlands in both Peninsular and East Malaysia are important for several threatened waterbirds.
Mongolia retains extensive relatively unspoiled areas of steppe and boreal forest. It is the Asian stronghold for several threatened grassland and wetland species, including White-headed Duck, Lesser Kestrel, Great Bustard, Relict Gull and White-throated Bushchat, and it has the only surviving breeding population of Dalmatian Pelican in eastern Asia. Overgrazing and the use of rodenticides to control vole outbreaks are affecting steppe habitats and fauna in some areas. In the longer term, the Mongolian government has plans to develop the country economically, a process that needs to be carefully planned and managed to prevent unnecessary damage to the country’s natural habitats.
Myanmar is a remarkably diverse country for it size, with threatened species in its lowland and montane forests and in coastal and riverine wetlands. It could prove to be the stronghold of several relatively widespread threatened birds, such as White-bellied Heron, Hume’s Pheasant, Green Peafowl and Pale-capped Pigeon, its coastal wetlands are likely to be important for Spotted Greenshank and Spoon-billed Sandpiper, and there is even a possibility that Pink-headed Duck may survive in the remote wetlands in the north. However, there is little recent information on the national status of most of the threatened birds, and surveys are urgently required to locate important populations and key sites. Gurney’s Pitta was rediscovered in southern Myanmar in 2003, after a gap of almost 90 years, and further work is required to identify the actions required for its protection.
The montane forests of Nepal support important populations of several threatened birds, but are being cleared and degraded in some areas as a result of conversion for agriculture, livestock grazing and cutting for timber and fuel. Hunting is also a problem. The southern lowlands of the country (the terai) are densely populated, and virtually all of the remaining natural grasslands are inside a few large protected areas. These are very important for several threatened grassland specialists and waterbirds, including Bengal Florican, but their protection and management are a major challenge because of the intense pressure from human utilisation.
Pakistan is an arid country, and its forests are mainly confined to the mountains in the north. These Himalayan forests are now much reduced in extent, but the remaining fragments support important populations of several threatened species, notably Western Tragopan. A number of threatened waterbirds inhabit the wetlands in the Indus valley and on the coast, including the most important Asian populations of White-headed Duck and Marbled Teal, but many of them have declined because of wetland drainage and degradation, and hunting.
The Philippines is remarkable for its very high levels of endemism, including many species which are confined to certain islands or island groups within the archipelago. It has a very high total of threatened species for a country of its size, mainly because of the widespread clearance and degradation of its tropical forests. Deforestation is particularly severe in the Western Visayas, Mindoro and the Sulu archipelago, and the effective protection of the small remaining forests on these islands is vital for endemics such as Negros Bleeding-heart, Black-hooded Coucal, Sulu Hornbill and Cebu Flowerpecker. On Luzon, Samar, Leyte and Mindanao, a network of forests needs to be protected to prevent the extinction of Philippine Eagle and many other threatened birds. Unsustainable capture for the wild bird trade is causing a dramatic decline in the range and numbers of Philippine Cockatoo, and many threatened birds are hunted for food and sport.
The tundra, boreal forest, wetland and steppe habitats in Eastern Siberia support huge numbers of breeding birds, many of which migrate to East and South-East Asia in winter. Large areas of these habitats remain pristine, but forestry and industrial and agricultural development near to the Chinese border and along the east coast are reducing and degrading natural forests, grasslands and wetlands. Several threatened species are concentrated in this part of the country, although others (including Siberian Crane and Spoonbilled Sandpiper, which nest in the northern tundra) are declining mostly because of threats on their passage and wintering grounds.
Although the remaining forests in Singapore are small and fragmented, they support an important population of Straw-headed Bulbul, which is declining rapidly elsewhere because of trapping for the wild bird trade. The coastal wetlands regularly support small numbers of the threatened Chinese Egret, with occasional records of Spoon-billed Sandpiper.
Sri Lanka has over twenty endemic bird species, many of which are confined to the rain forests of the wet zone, in the south and west of the island. These forests are highly fragmented, with few large blocks remaining and only a small number of protected areas, and consequently seven of the endemic birds are globally threatened. The government has imposed a moratorium on logging, which needs to be strictly enforced to prevent further habitat loss. Sri Lanka is also one of the strongholds of Spot-billed Pelican, and the major colonies and feeding areas of this waterbird need to be protected.
Many threatened forest birds occur in Thailand, but most have declined there because of rapid deforestation in recent decades. However, several forest species still have important populations, mainly inside protected areas, most notably the population of Gurney’s Pitta at Khao Nor Chuchi in peninsular Thailand. The freshwater and coastal wetlands have also been seriously affected by development, as well as heavy hunting pressure, and several threatened waterbirds no longer breed in the country. The only records of the enigmatic White-eyed River-martin were from central Thailand in the 1960s and 1970s and, if it survives, it is assumed to nest along large rivers in Thailand or another South-East Asian country.
This newly independent country retains more extensive forests than western Timor (in Indonesia), and it is likely to support the most important populations of some of the threatened species which are confined to the islands of Timor and Wetar, including Timor Green-pigeon and Timor Imperial-pigeon. Timor-Leste still holds a healthy population of Yellowcrested Cockatoo, which has declined rapidly elsewhere because of capture for the wild bird trade. There is little recent information on the distribution and status of the threatened birds, so surveys are required to identify the richest areas of forest and the measures needed for their protection.
The evergreen and semi-evergreen forests of Vietnam support many threatened forest birds, including groups of nationally endemic (or near endemic) species in the Annamese lowlands, Kon Tum plateau, South Vietnamese lowlands and Da Lat plateau. Vietnam’s forests have been greatly reduced and fragmented, particularly in the lowlands, and several of these birds are highly threatened, being confined to a handful of key sites. The coastal wetlands support concentrations of several threatened waterbirds, notably the Red River delta in northern Vietnam and the Mekong delta in the south.