Endangered Black-faced Spoonbill breaking the record of over 6000

© Kenneth Lam/HKBWS

EAAFP Black-faced Spoonbill Working Group reported another record high of 6,162 for the global population of Black-faced Spoonbills (Endangered under IUCN Red List), with an increase of 18% (i.e. 940 individuals) compared to last year (5,222 individuals in 2021), based on the results of the International Black-faced Spoonbill Census 2022. The census was conducted from 7th to 9th January, convened and coordinated by The Hong Kong Bird Watching Society, with over 100 citizen scientists participating.


BFS global population breaks record for 9th time in a decade

The 2022 census covered about 150 sites all over the world. All wintering sites, except for Macau, China and the Philippines, reported growing BFS populations. Taiwan, China remains the largest congregation site during the census (3,824, comprising 62% of the world population), and has the highest percentage increase (22.1%) among all sites. Followed by Japan (increased by 19.8%), China mainland (increased by 11%) and Hong Kong (raised 10%). With rebounding numbers in both Deep Bay and mainland China, promising signs from all major wintering sites help boost the global BFS population to surpass 6,000 for the first time, making 2022 the 9th recording-breaking year over the past decade.

Two individuals were also found wintering in Malaysia – in Teluk Air Tawar-Kuala Muda Coast of Penang and Tempasuk Plains of Sabah, respectively; these are new southern records since the census was first launched in 1994. New sightings suggest the BFSs may disperse over a large area in the Southeast Asian region during the non-breeding season. Birdwatchers in this region are encouraged to pay more attention to the species and submit all the sightings of the BFS (or any sighting of the spoonbills) to the EAAFP Black-faced Spoonbill Working Group. This helps to document the non-breeding range of the bird.


Table 1. Distribution of Black-faced Spoonbill in different sites during the International Black-faced Spoonbill Census 2022

Site Name Count (record in 2021, percentage difference)
Taiwan3,824 (3,132 in 2021, +22.1%)
Mainland China, including Hainan1,136 (1022 in 2021, +11.2%)
Deep Bay (Hong Kong and Shenzhen)369 (336 in 2021, +9.8%)
Japan683 (570 in 2021, +19.8%)
Vietnam88 (82 in 2021, +7.3%)
Republic of Korea37 (34 in 2021, +8.8%)
Macau22 (45 in 2021, -51.1%)
Malaysia2 (new record),
Thailand1 (1 outside census period in 2021)
The Philippines0 (1 in 2021, -100%)
Cambodia0 (0 in 2021)
Total6,162 (5,222 in 2021, +18.0%)


Conservation efforts need to be sustained

While it is encouraging to see the record-high population of the wintering Black-faced Spoonbills, there are potential threats to the species. With more Black-faced Spoonbill congregated in Taiwan, it also increases the risks of over-dependence on a single area for an endangered species. Dead and sick BFS could still be found in the aquaculture ponds throughout the winter. Recently, there has been a rise in attention and concern for the negative impacts of renewable energy development on wild animals. More discussion and studies, however, are needed to mitigate and minimize the impact on Black-faced Spoonbill and their habitats.

In Hong Kong, more Black-faced Spoonbills were found in the Mai Po Nature Reserve and the Hong Kong Wetland Park, where site management has been implemented for providing suitable habitats for the birds, demonstrating the importance of effective conservation management.

In addition, international collaboration is crucial to ensure good communication and exchange of information, management knowledge, and scientific research for Black-faced Spoonbill. The Incheon-Hong Kong Sister Site Programme under the EAAFP Flyway Site Network created opportunities for enhancing the effectiveness of conservation efforts at the breeding and wintering grounds of this threatened species.

A detailed report will be released by the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society.

Visit the EAAFP Black-faced Spoonbill Working Group [here].

©Jay Kong/HKBWS


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