Thu, Jan 27, 2005 - Page 4 News List

Spoonbill population on the rise, study shows

GETAWAY OF CHOICE Conservationists from the Wild Bird Federation said the number of black-faced spoonbills who spend the winter in Taiwan has doubled

By Chiu Yu-tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

A flock of black-nosed spoonbills is seen in a pond in Tainan County in this Dec. 30 file photo.

PHOTO: LIBERTY TIMES

At 757, Taiwan has seen a record high number of endangered black-faced spoonbills wintering in the southern part of the country, the Wild Bird Federation Taiwan said yesterday. The group made public their most up-to-date information on the species.

According to the federation, the record-high figure suggests an obvious improvement to the habitats where the birds spend the winter. At the same time last year, the number reported was only 628.

On Sunday, a one-day global synchronic census on the endangered bird was carried out by conservationists associated with the federation. Yesterday, Fang Woei-horng (方偉宏), vice president of the federation, released a report on the census which shows that wetlands in Chiku, Tainan County, near Tsengwen Esturay is the most ideal site for the bird. Some 407 black-faced spoonbills were observed there. At wetlands in nearby Sitsao Township, 277 spoonbills were observed. Another 57 spoonbills were seen in the estuary of Bachang Creek, which straddles Tainan and Chiayi counties, four were seen in the Choshui estuary of Yunlin County, one at Chihpen wetland in eastern Taitung County and 11 at Wengdi wetland in northeastern Ilan County.

Federation secretary-general Chiang Kuen-dar (江昆達) told the Taipei Times yesterday that the result shows that conservation efforts made in the last decade have borne fruit.

"More wintering sites for the rare bird are now available. The number of spoonbills observed on wetlands in Sitsao, where is now an ecological reserve, has almost doubled since last year," Chiang said.

Since early September, the black-faced spoonbills returned to southern Taiwan earlier than they did in previous years, and in greater numbers. The peak number was measured in last month at 842.

Chiang said that some estuaries could be made into wintering sites for the bird if efforts were made to ensure proper habitat management.

Citing Aogu wetland near the estuary of Peikang River in Chiayi County as an example, Chiang said that bird watchers he talked to on Sunday said no spoonbills were spotted there. This is unusual, as the wetland is regarded by conservationists as one of the most important habitats for the wild bird, Chang said.

Conservationists soon figured out why the spoonbills were absent. Local authorities in the area destroyed 183kg of gunpowder at the ecologically sensitive site on Saturday, apparently driving the birds away.

Chiang said that a global census was conducted on the same day by conservationists in different countries, and a final report on the bird's global population would be released next month.

Black-faced spoonbills leave North Korea in winter for wetlands near river estuaries in the southern regions of Asia. They have been sighted along the southeast coast of China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines. A global study conducted in January 1995 revealed that there were only 430 black-faced spoonbills in the world. However, the population has been growing, with a minimum of 1,069 counted in 2003 census and 1,206 last year.

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