Numbers of Spoon-billed Sandpiper have dropped significantly in recent years and this species is now at serious risk of extinction. The main threats include hunting and the loss of breeding, passage and non-breeding habitats. If these threats are not addressed, this spectacular species could go extinct in the next 5-10 years.
Rapid decline This charismatic species is now listed as Critically Endangered due to its very small and declining population. It is one of the most endangered species on the planet and one for which imminent extinction is a very real possibility. Declines have taken place at all the breeding sites where it is monitored and are also being observed in the non-breeding areas. For example, no birds were sighted wintering in the Red River Delta in Vietnam in 2009, a site that supported up to 27 birds in the mid 1990s. These threats seem to be having a greater impact on juvenile Spoon-billed Sandpiper, leading to very low recruitment of birds to the adult population. Recruitment would need to be 5 times higher than it is for the adult population to be stable.
Threats on all sides Throughout its migratory and non-breeding ranges, inter-tidal sand and mud-flats are being reclaimed for industry, infrastructure and aquaculture and are becoming increasingly polluted. Although not specifically targeted, Spoon-billed Sandpiper is regularly caught in nets that are set to catch other waders for food in the key non-breeding areas in Myanmar and Bangladesh and possibly also at some passage sites. Evidence from the non-breeding grounds suggests that this trapping is the most likely cause of the rapid recent declines, with younger birds seemingly more susceptible. Significant habitat degradation has been observed at several breeding locations, and future climate change and associated habitat shifts are expected to impact negatively on this species and others dependent on tundra habitat for breeding.
Given how small and fragile the remaining population is, all of these threats need to be addressed.