The Importance of the Yellow Sea – Few mudflats are more important!

Author: Todd Peterson

Report by BirdNote


The Importance of the Yellow Sea to Migrating Shorebirds

Featuring Nils Warnock, Ph.D. Interview by Todd Peterson. DOWNLOAD


© Mike Reagan/Hedge Graphics

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For shorebirds, like Bar-tailed Godwits, Black-bellied Plovers and Dunlin, mud matters. Few mudflats in the world are more important than those of the Yellow Sea along the coast of China, and DPR Korea and RO Korea. There, more than 70 species of shorebirds rest and feed [call of Whimbrel]. Nils Warnock, Executive Director of Audubon Alaska, explains:

“That food in the mud gets converted into fat that they use to fuel their migration. There’s eight shorebird species where sometimes their entire population, relies on the Yellow Sea as one of these critical fueling stops. [And all of these eight species of shorebirds are declining…]”

What’s happening on the Yellow Sea coast that’s hitting shorebirds so hard?

“You’ve got, first of all huge population and very high human densities. Chinese especially, but also certainly in RO Korea, huge economic engine burning right now. And so the cheapest place to build and expand is to go out onto your tidal flats… About 386 square miles of mudflats being filled in per year in the Yellow Sea, the equivalent of San Francisco Bay [in certain years].

Especially the long distance migrants, they can’t do it without the fuel. It’s as if you’re an airplane and you’re flying over the Pacific. It’s not an option of landing. If you run out of gas, you’re in big trouble.”

You can find links to Audubon’s work on the issue, at our website,


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