Appearance Spoon-billed Sandpiper Eurynorhynchus pygmeus is one of the world’s strangest looking birds and certainly the weirdest wader! It is a species on the wish list of most global birdwatchers and is especially tricky to see in its fine breeding plumage. As its name suggests, this charismatic small bird has an amazing spoon-shaped bill, which it pecks and probes through mud and sand in a unique way. In fact, it is the only species of bird to be born with a spoon-shaped bill! Breeding adults have a striking red-brown head, neck and breast with dark upperparts and white underparts. The male’s display flight includes circling, brief hovers and rapid diving while singing.
Habitat preference Spoon-billed Sandpiper can always be found close to the coast. During the breeding season, it can be found in coastal spits with sparse vegetation that are near to lakes and marshes. It breeds either in single pairs or small groups and will usually breed in the same place each year. In the non-breeding season, it prefers mixed sandy inter-tidal mudflats with shallow water, mainly in the outermost parts of river deltas and outer islands. Spoony shares its breeding, passage and non-breeding grounds with a huge array of other waterbird species. As such, protection of Spoon-billed Sandpiper would help protect many other species and the habitats they use.
Conservation status Spoon-billed Sandpiper is listed as Critically Endangered because it has an extremely small population, estimated at just 120-200 pairs in 2009, which is in rapid decline. The main causes of its population decline are believed to be hunting on its non-breeding grounds and widespread habitat loss in its breeding and non-breeding range. In addition to this, the recruitment of young birds into the breeding population is very low, leading to fears that the population is ageing and could crash even more suddenly and dramatically. Action is now urgently required to prevent the extinction of this species..