East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership e-Newsletter
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No. 33
June 2016

Opportunistic breeding and habitat restoration

To our Partners and Supporters,
It’s summer in the Republic of Korea. Not many waterbirds are migrating, but quite a few are in the middle of their breeding season. Not far from the Secretariat office in Songdo, an area of reclaimed land with shallow pools and some emergent coastal vegetation supports large colonies of Saunders’s Gulls and Little Terns. Eastern Oystercatchers, Kentish and Little Ringed Plovers and even the odd Eastern Spot-billed Duck also nest here and rear their young. All this makes for a noisy concentration of breeding waterbirds. The local authorities have put in measures to minimize disturbance to these birds. All very nice, but of course there is a catch. This is only a temporary phenomenon. Within a couple of years, the area will be levelled for construction and the birds will have to go elsewhere, if they can find suitable areas. These birds naturally breed on beaches and in coastal saltmarshes and can quickly take advantage of newly-reclaimed areas that mimic their original nesting grounds. Indeed, Saunders’s Gull is a recent colonist to Korea, perhaps in large part due to rapid emergence of this “new habitat”.  Because they are quite adaptable, Little Terns and Oystercatchers now breed on artificial structures that resemble shingle habitat, such as pebble-strewn rooftops, in parts of their range. Creating artificial habitats in more secure areas may be part of the solution to promoting conservation of these species. Whether this is possible for Saunders’s Gulls, which typically nest in large, loose colonies, is unsure, but outside of protected areas in their limited breeding range (mostly in China), their favoured habitat of coastal saltmarsh is rapidly disappearing. Better to try to set aside potential breeding areas for these birds as part of the “compensation” for development plans, something that may require long-term habitat management.

Coastal wetland restoration is an important component of conservation and management of these threatened areas. It can be quite simple, such as breaking down small dykes to re-create tidal flows and restoring old fishponds or saltpans. Restoration can even improve habitat for waterbirds, e.g. by creating high-tide roost areas. I saw some examples of this recently in Suncheon Bay, in the south of Korea. Cleaning up and blocking sources of pollution can also be achieved quite easily. Eradicating exotic, invasive species, such as Spartina in China or USA is much longer-term, as well as complicated and expensive. Restoring tidal flows in major estuaries can be simple, but is often fraught with political considerations. The Caring for Coasts initiative hopes to document global best practice for coastal wetland restoration, so that potential solutions tried elsewhere can be applied to restore these critical habitats in our Flyway.
Spike Millington, Chief Executive


Partnership News
Events and meetings for conservation

Shorebird Black-faced Spoonbill Spoon-billed Sandpiper
  • Eggs mean fresh hope for Spoon-billed Sandpipers (Media Release)
  Articles from Saving the Spoon-billed Sandpiper:

Baer's Pochard

International Waterbird Census


From the Secretariat

Upcoming Events

To see more events, please click here.

Related News
Conservation actions
Threats to migratory waterbirds Migration
  • Arctic tern makes longest migration on record
  • Grey Plovers CYA & CYB updates - now they are in Russia (6 June)
  • Grey Plover CYA appears to have settled into a nesting area (18 June 2016)
  • 13,000km globetrotting adventure of the Grey Plovers (12 June)


News in other languages
Japanese (日本語)

  • ミゾゴイの保護の進め方」が公表されました (A brochure on the conservation of Japanese Night Heron in Japan was published by the Ministry of the Environment, Japan. It shows the direction and approaches for the conservation of JNH's breeding habitats.)
  • ニュースレター32号の日本語訳 (Japanese translation of the newsletter #32)

Chinese (中文:Posted for Weibo)

To read our previous e-Newsletters, please click here.


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Illustration: Baer's Pochard ©David Broughton
Photo credits:

Saunders's Gull & reclaimed area ©Eugene Cheah
SBS in nest ©Saving the Spoon-billed Sandpiper
Great Knot ©Rick Simpson – Wader Quest
WWD RoK ©Young-Min Moon, BirdLife International
Conserving Coastal Wetlands
 ©The Paulson Institute
Youth Skype meeting ©Eugene Cheah

MNS Kapar Workshop ©Henry Goh
H03 ©Birding Beijing
BFS nest in Namdong ©Eugene Cheah
Yellow River Delta ©Taej Mundkur
e-Newsletter 32 figure credits:
BTG migration map ©Phil Battley
Park ranger at Tubbataha ©JC Gonzalez
Ethical Wildlife Photography ©Conservation India
Red Knot count data ©Global Flyway Network