This spoonbill is listed as Endangered because it has a very small population, which is expected to undergo a continuing decline in the near future owing primarily to the loss of habitat to industrial development, land reclamation, and pollution. A lack of baseline data makes identifying a population trend problematic, but if the apparent recent increases are confirmed as genuine, the species may warrant downlisting in the future.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.
Distribution and populationPlatalea minor
76 cm. Smallish, white spoonbill with blackish bill and face. Similar species Eurasian Spoonbill P. leucorodia is larger, has yellow tip to bill and white face.
breeds on islets off the west coast of North Korea
and South Korea
, and Liaoning province in mainland China
(Birdlife International 2001). Birds have been reported in the Tumen estuary of Russia
, and breeding was recorded in South Primorye for the first time in 2006 (Litvinenko and Shibaev 2007)
. The three major wintering sites are the Tsengwen estuary of Taiwan (China)
, the Deep Bay area of Hong Kong
(China), and the Chinese mainland and Hainan Island. It also winters in Cheju, South Korea, Kyushu and Okinawa, Japan
, and Red River delta, Vietnam
(Yu Yattung 2003), and there are recent records from Thailand
, the Philippines
(China) and inland China (Yu Yattung and Swennen 2005)
. The key known stopover sites used during migration include Yueqing Bay, Wenzhou Bay and Sanmen Bay (Ding Ping 2002), as well as Chongming Dongtian, Shanghai (Yu Yattung in litt
. A recent study infers an historical population of c.10,300 individuals (Yeung et al
, which fell to an estimated low of 288 individuals in 1988 but it appears to have recovered subsequently, with a total of 1,679 individuals counted during the 2006 International Black-faced Spoonbill Census (Yu Yattung and Wong Chichun 2006)
. The 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 censuses recorded totals of 1,695, 2,065, 2,041 and 2,347 birds respectively (Yu Yattung and Wong Chichun 2007, Yu Yattung 2008, 2009a,b; Nguyen Duc Tu 2009, Anon. 2011), and a new high was recorded during the 2012 census, with a total of 2,693 individuals (Yu Yattung in litt
. 2012), representing a steady increase on previous totals that may reflect genuine increases and result from successful conservation measures at a number of sites
(Yu Yattung 2008, Chan et al
. 2010). Some uncertainty remains over whether census increases represent increased survey effort, displacement of birds from unknown wintering sites or genuine population increases, thus on the basis of on-going habitat loss and degradation the overall population is expected to decline in the near future. Population justification
The 2012 census recorded a new high of 2,693 birds, thus the total number of mature individuals is estimated at c.1,600, as adults appear to account for around 60% of the total population (Yu Yattung in litt
. 2012).Trend justification
Despite annual censuses indicating year-on-year increases in the surveyed population, it is unclear whether these represent genuine increases, displacement of birds from degraded and destroyed sites or simply an increase in observer effort. Therefore, the population is suspected to be stable at present, and, as a precautionary measure, rapid declines are expected to occur in the next 22 years (three generations) owing to expected habitat loss.Ecology
It breeds in mixed colonies on small islands from March to August (Wei Guoan et al
. Breeding success is low. It is mainly a crepuscular feeder and utilises intertidal mudflats (Yu Yattung and Swennen 2004b)
; resting, sleeping and digesting occur at a variety of sites (trees, man-made structures, shallow water) within 2-3 km of feeding areas (Yu and Swennen 2004a)
. Spoonbills employ tactile feeding using lateral sweeps of the bill to locate fish and shrimp prey (Swennen and Yu Yattung 2005)
. Satellite tracking has shown that birds wintering in Hong Kong and Taiwan migrate along the coast of eastern China to northern Jiangsu, then over the Yellow Sea to the Korean peninsula. Wintering birds form large aggregations and it has been recorded amongst flocks of Eurasian Spoonbills Platalea leucorodia
(Yu Yattung and Swennen 2005)
. It matures at five years of age and birds of at least 9.5 years old have been recorded in the wild (Yu Yattung 2005)
Recent speculation suggests that pollution from pesticides is most congruent with demographic history, in terms of scale and timing of declines and subsequent recovery, as an explanation of past population reduction (Yeung et al
. However, habitat destruction is probably the biggest threat currently. The main wintering grounds are threatened by industrial development, particularly a key site in Taiwan and also in China, and reclamation, especially in South Korea, Japan and China. Economic development in China has converted many coastal wetlands into aquaculture ponds and industrial estates. Pollution remains a major threat to birds wintering in Hong Kong. An outbreak of botulism at one of the major wintering sites killed 73 birds representing 7% of the world population from December 2002 to February 2003 (M. C. Coulter in litt.
, Yu Yattung 2003). Increasing levels of disturbance by fishers and tourists and also hunting are threats in China and Vietnam (Wei Guoan et al
. Fishers in China collect waterbird eggs at nesting sites. Conservation Actions Underway
It is legally protected in China (including Hong Kong), Taiwan, North Korea, South Korea and Japan. Breeding sites in North Korea, at Taegam-do, Unmu-do, Sonchonrap-do and Tok-do, are designated as seabird sanctuaries and sites in China have been declared as non-hunting areas. Protected wintering sites include Tainan National Park (Taiwan), Mai Po and Inner Deep Bay (Hong Kong), Xuan Thuy and Tien Hai (Vietnam), and Manko (Japan). An action plan was published in 1995 and workshops involving all major range countries were held in 1996 and 1997. A second single species action plan was published in 2010 (Chan et al
. 2010). Education material, satellite tracking and field survey results and management recommendation have been produced. Annual censuses have been conducted in recent years. In January 2006, the International Symposium on Research and Conservation of the Black-faced Spoonbill was held in Hong Kong (HKBWS 2007). In May 2007, the Macao Ecological Society held the 2007 Macao International Symposium on Black-faced Spoonbill, with the themes of city development and wetland protection (Choi 2007). Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey coastal wetlands in China for additional wintering sites and summering sites for non-breeders. Ensure full protection of the wintering site at Tainan (Taiwan), new breeding sites in China, important wetland sites along the western and southern coast of South Korea, and wintering sites at Hakata Bay and Ariake Bay, Japan. Develop management plans and education programmes for all sites. As pollution has been heavily implicated in the major population reduction that this species suffered, environmental monitoring is recommended as a proactive step to prevent future pollution or disease outbreaks (Yeung et al
. Continue annual population censuses.
Related state of the world's birds case studies
Anon. 2011. 2011 Black-faced Spoonbill census in Taiwan. Feather 24(2)(246): 6-7.
Anon. 2011. The International Black-faced Spoonbill Census 2010. Feather 24(1)(245): 6-7.
BirdLife International. 2001. Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.
Brazil, M. 2009. Birds of East Asia: eastern China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, eastern Russia. Christopher Helm, London.
Chan, S.; Fang Woei-horng; Lee Ki-sup; Yamada, Y.; Yu Yat-tung. 2010. International Single Species Action Plan for the conservation of the Black-faced Spoonbill (Platalea minor). BirdLife International Asia Division & CMS Secretariat, Tokyo & Bonn, Germany.
Choi, S. 2007. 2007's Macao International Symposium on Black-faced Spoonbill - city development and wetland protection. China Crane News 11(1): 48-49.
Ding Ping. Undated. Studies on the migratory stopover sites of Black-faced Spoonbill on the eastern China Sea coast in Zhejiang.
Hong Kong Bird Watching Society. 2007. Proceedings: keeping Asia's spoonbills airborne: . International Symposium on Research and Conservation of the Black-faced Spoonbill, Hong Kong, 16-18 January 2006. Hong Kong Bird Watching Society, Hong Kong.
IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: www.iucnredlist.org. (Accessed: 19 November 2015).
Litvinenko, N. M.; Shibaev, Y. V. 2007. Breeding of the Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor in Peter the Great Bay (Primorye, Russia). The situation and the prospect. Birdland.RU 1: 3-9.
Nguyen, T. D. 2009. 2009 International Black-faced Spoonbill Census. The Babbler: BirdLife in Indochina: 15.
Swennen, C.; Yu Yattung. 2005. Food and feeding behavior of the Black-faced Spoonbill. Waterbirds 28(1): 19-27.
Wei Guoan; Lei Fumin; Yin Zuohua; Ding Changqing; Ding Wenning. 2005. Nesting and disturbance of the Black-faced Spoonbill in Liaoning Province, China. Waterbirds 28(4): 420-425.
Yeung, C. K.-L.; Yao, C.-T.; Hsu, Y.-C.; Wang, J.-P.; Li, S.-H. 2006. Assessment of the historical population size of an endangered bird, the Black-faced Spoonbill (Platalea minor) by analysis of mitochondrial DNA diversity. Animal Conservation 9(1): 1-10.
Yu Yattung; Swennen, C. 2004. Feeding of wintering Black-faced Spoonbills in Hong Kong: When and how long? . Waterbirds 27(2): 135-140.
Yu Yattung; Swennen, C. 2004. Habitat use of the Black-faced Spoonbill . Waterbirds 27(2): 129-134.
Yu Yattung; Swennen, C. 2005. Black-faced Spoonbill wintering in inland China. BirdingASIA: 63.
Yu Yattung; Wong Chichun. 2006. International Black-faced Spoonbill Census: 6-8 January 2006.
Yu Yattung; Wong Chichun. 2007. The international Black-faced Spoonbill census: 19-20 January 2007.
Yu Yattung. 2003. Hong Kong Birdwatching Society, Hong Kong, China.
Yu Yattung. 2008. Global census reveals record count of Black-faced Spoonbill. The Babbler: BirdLife in Indochina: 10.
Yu Yattung. 2009. The International Black-faced Spoonbill Census 2008 and 2009.
Yu Yattung. 2009. 2009 International Black-faced Spoonbill Census. Hong Kong Bird Watching Society Bulletin: 9.
Yu, Y.T. 2005. Longevity record of a colour-ringed black-faced spoonbill Platalea minor. Forktail 21: 176-177.
Further web sources of information
Detailed species accounts from the Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 2001).
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species
International Black-faced Spoonbill Census - web site maintained by Hong Kong Bird Watching Society
Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection
Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Bird, J., Chan, S., Crosby, M., Harding, M., Peet, N., Pilgrim, J., Taylor, J., Symes, A. & Ashpole, J
Coulter, M. & Yu, Y.
BirdLife International (2015) Species factsheet: Platalea minor. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 28/11/2015.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2015) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 28/11/2015.
This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000)
Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004)
Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.
To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife
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Additional resources for this species