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Spoon-billed Sandpiper

Calidris pygmaea


This little wading bird has an incredible and unique spatula-shaped bill.

It is not closely related to the Spoonbills and unlike any other bird, emerges from the egg already possessing the spoon-shaped bill. They use their incredible bill in a number of ways to forage for food. It has been seen on wet tidal flats employing a ‘run-and-peck’ method, or rapidly pecking at the substrate, an approach often called ‘sewing’. It is thought that sewing turns the top layer of sand into a ‘soup’ in which prey is trapped.

The species has a vast range, breeding in Russia, migrating through 14 different countries and wintering in China, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Unfortunately human activities affect the birds in all of these regions, the greatest threats being hunting and reclamation of intertidal mudflats for coastal development. However, its charismatic appearance may have helped save it from extinction as the species is now receiving a large amount of conservation attention. Work is already underway to stop hunting and habitat loss, promote alternative livelihoods for hunters and implement captive breeding programmes.

  • Order: Charadriiformes
  • Family: Scolopacidae
  • Population: 360-600
  • Trend: decreasing
  • Size: 14-16cm
  • Weight: 31-40g

EDGE Score

EDGE Score: 5.6 (?)
ED Score: 15.97 (?)
GE / IUCN Red List (?)
Not Evaluated Data Deficient Least Concern Near Threatened Vulnerable Endangered Critically Endangered Extinct in the Wild Extinct


The species breeds in Chukotka in North-East Russia along a broken strip of coastal tundra. Following the breeding season, individuals will undertake an 8,000km journey along the coast through Russia, Japan, North and South Korea, China and Taiwan to reach South and South East Asia where it spends the winter.

Habitat and Ecology

Breeding habitats are usually lagoon spits or sandy ridges with low vegetation, such as birch and willow sedge, within which the chick can forage for invertebrates. Little is known about the species’ wintering habitat but it is thought to winter on sandy coastal mudflats with shallow water. The species has never been observed further than 7km from the sea. They feed on worms, miniature red crabs, and amphipods.

Find out more

This wordcloud illustrates the threats facing this species. The size of each word indicates the extent of a species range that is affected by that threat (larger size means a greater area is affected). The colour of the word indicates how much that threat impacts the species (darker shades of red mean the threat is more severe).

Industrial development Tourism Habitat change Aquaculture Hunting Work Invasive species Industry Garbage

Threat wordcloud key:

Small area affected
Large area affected
Least severe
Most severe
Severity unknown
Source: The IUCN List of Threatened Species. Version 2017.1.
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