The probably oldest banded Curlew Sandpiper in EAA Flyway

This year, on 21st March, Hong Kong Waterbirds Ringing Group captured a Curlew Sandpiper with an old metal ring coded “NV83515” during their regular waterbird ringing survey in Mai Po Nature Reserve, Hong Kong. After checking the records, this individual was found to be first captured (and ringed) on 13th April 2002 by the Hong Kong Bird Ringing Group – about 18 years ago! By that time the bird was recorded as an adult, meaning that it was born in 2000 or earlier. It is therefore at least 19 years old now, probably the oldest known individual of its own kind. Given that Curlew Sandpiper breeds in the Arctic and winter in the Australasian region, the team further believe that this bird has cumulatively traveled over 400,000 km over the 19 years, even longer than the distance between the Earth and the Moon (384,000 km)!

Curlew Sandpiper © James Kwok

Curlew Sandpiper, Calidris ferruginea, is a common spring migrant in Hong Kong. They winter in coastal Australia and then fly along the renowned East Asian-Australasian Flyway to arrive at their breeding ground in the Arctic region. Curlew Sandpiper is now listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN due to its declining population trend. It was included in the list of priority species of Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) in their 2019-2023 Work Plan.

In Hong Kong, April and May are the peak migratory time of many birds. Thousands and thousands of migrants departed their southern wintering grounds for breeding in the north. Many of them would rest and fuel up in Hong Kong as a stopover site. As an important and excellent stopover site to migratory waterbirds, Mai Po Marshes Nature Reserve was designated as a Ramsar Site in 1995 and an EAAFP Flyway Network Site (EAAF 003) in 1996.

Curlew Sandpiper with white over yellow leg flags indicate it was ringed in Hong Kong © Kevin Lok

The use of bird ringing and banding, meaning to put a small individually coded metal or plastic ring or tag (also known as leg flag) onto the leg or wing of a wild bird, so as to allow individual identification when being recaptured or resighted. Therefore, the report of any resighting of tagged birds would provide important information about the birds’ migration ecology, and helping the work of scientists. The Curlew Sandpiper has now fitted with an additional tag: a white flag above a yellow flag, indicating it has been tagged in Hong Kong, engraved with the code “HT”. If you see this bird, please contact your local bird ringing centres or report to this system:


Original text prepared by:

Hong Kong Bird Ringing Group

Hong Kong Waterbirds Ringing Group


To view the original news, please click [here].

To learn more about color-marking protocols in EAA Flyway, please visit [here].

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