From: Parveen Ahmed, Associated Press
Published January 18, 2006 12:00 AM

Experts to Search Bangladesh for Sandpiper

DHAKA, Bangladesh — A team of international bird experts will begin surveying the Bangladeshi coast Tuesday in search of the endangered spoon-billed sandpiper, whose population they believe has dwindled to just 350 pairs in the wild, organizers said Monday.


The spoon-billed sandpiper, a small shore bird with a bill shaped like a teaspoon, lives and breeds in the Russian tundra.


However, after summer they migrate to warmer climates in Asia, and usually spend winters along the coastal areas of Bangladesh, India and Myanmar -- after a long, arduous journey of nearly 3,730 miles through Japan, Korea and China, said Christoph Zockler from Cambridge, England who will lead the Bangladesh survey.


The population of the species has been declining over the years for unknown reasons, and a 2000-2005 survey found an estimated 300-350 breeding pairs in sparsely populated Siberia, Zockler told a news conference.


The Russian survey had no explanation for the decline, and experts believe something may be happening to the birds along the migratory route.


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"We ringed some young birds, but none returned home to breed. So what's going on?" said Zockler, who has been following the birds for five years. "We hope to uncover the mystery along the fly path."


A survey in India last year found no sandpipers, but they have been spotted in Bangladesh in recent years.


A 20-member survey team, divided into three groups, will scan southern Bangladesh's Bay of Bengal coastline from Jan. 17-25 for the birds and study their winter habitat to see if factors -- such as reduced food reserves or human activities -- are causing them to die out.


The surveyors include nine bird experts from Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom, as well as members of the Bangladesh Bird Club, the Wildlife Trust of Bangladesh and the Forest Department.


"We hope our survey will yield results that will help save them," said Enam Ul Haque, a Bangladesh water fowl census coordinator.


Source: Associated Press


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