Black-faced Spoonbill is currently listed as Endangered under Criterion C2a(ii), on the basis that there is an on-going decline and the global population size is below 2,500 mature individuals. An apparent increase has been reported for the population over the past few years, but the lack of adequate baseline data and uncertainty surrounding potential un-monitored locations has meant that an on-going decline has been suspected on precautionary grounds.
Efforts have been made over the past few years to increase the confidence in the population trend, and with the further passing of time there is more evidence that the increase in numbers seen over the past decade is a genuine trend (Sung et al. 2017). This has been as a result of legal protection for the species and sites used by the species, including designation of breeding sites as seabird sanctuaries and further locations as non-hunting areas (Yat-tung Yu in litt. 2016, Yung et al. 2017). All main wintering areas are now protected, and the Black-faced Spoonbill Working Group has coordinated targeted conservation efforts for the species since 2013 (Yat-tung Yu in litt. 2016). Regular monitoring of most of the population has consistently demonstrated an increase over the past decade, and the duration and stability of the trend indicates that it is a genuine change in numbers and not an artefact of distribution change (Yat-tung Yu in litt. 2016, Sung et al. 2017).
The total number of individuals counted during the 2017 census was a new record high count in recent times of 3,941 individuals (Hong Kong Birdwatching Society 2017), building on the January 2016 census which recorded 3,356 individuals, following 3,272 individuals in 2015 and consistently increasing at least from a count of 2,065 individuals in 2008 (Yu et al. 2015). These annual census figures are now derived from a consistent methodology and scope, indicating that the increase or stability in numbers of what is considered to be the vast majority of the global population is a genuine finding, and that there are not significant numbers elsewhere. As this indicates that the species is not at present suffering a continuing decline, it no longer qualifies as Endangered under Criterion C2a(ii). Within the overall census estimate there is inter-annual variation, with declines between 2015 and 2016 noted in Deep Bay, Hong Kong and Vietnam (Black-faced Spoonbill Working Group 2016). The consistency of the overall estimate indicates that this represents variation in wintering site selection: the same individuals or groups may select different wintering locations between years and movement between different surveyed sites within a season has been documented through satellite tracking (Wood et al. 2013).
While it is encouraging that the dedicated conservation efforts have resulted in an improvement in the fortunes of the species, the impact of the large-scale habitat conversion and degradation through disturbance and pollution around the Yellow and East China Seas continues to represent a clear threat in the future. These threats are predicted to limit further increases and the threats are considered sufficient to precautionarily that suspect a moderate to rapid future decline (>30%) may take place within the next three generations (21.6 years). Consequently the proposal is to list the species as Vulnerable under Criterion A3cde.
Comments are invited.
Hong Kong Birdwatching Society. 2017. The International Black-faced Spoonbill Census 2017. Hong Kong Birdwatching Society Press Release 24 March 2017. http://www.hkbws.org.hk/BBS/redirect.php?tid=26216&goto=lastpost
Sung, Y-H., Tse, I. W-L. and Yu, Y-T. 2017. Population trends of the Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor: analysis of data from international synchronised censuses. Bird Conservation International. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0959270917000016
Wood, C., Tomida, H., Kim, J., Lee, K., Cho, H., Nishida, S., Ibrahim, J., Hur, W., Kim, H., Kim, S., Koike, H., Fujita, G., Higuchi, H. and Yahara, T. 2013. New perspectives on habitat selection by the Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor based upon satellite telemetry. Bird Conservation International, 23, 495-501.
Yu, Y.T., Fong, H.H.N. and Tse, I.W.L. 2015. International Black-faced Spoonbill Census 2015. Black-faced Spoonbill Research Group. The Hong Kong Bird Watching Society. Hong Kong.