Nature and Wildlife Photography
VideosSpoon-billed Sandpiper

bird photography
Spoon-billed Sandpiper
Pak Thale, Thailand
January 7, 2011


The Spoon-billed Sandpiper (or Spoonbill Sandpiper), Eurynorhynchus pygmeus, is a small wader which breeds in northeastern Russia and winters in Southeast Asia.


The most distinctive feature of this species is its spatulate bill. The breeding adult bird is 14"?16 cm in length, and has a red-brown head, neck and breast with dark brown streaks. It has blackish upperparts with buff and pale rufous fringing. Non-breeding adults lack the reddish colouration, but have pale brownish-grey upperparts with whitish fringing to the wing-coverts. The underparts are white and the legs are black.

Measurements of wing are 98-106 mm, bill 19-24 mm, bill tip breadth 10-12 mm, tarsus 19-22 mm and tail 37-39 mm.

Contact calls of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper include a quiet preep or a shrill wheer. The song, given during display, is an intermittent buzzing and descending trill preer-prr-prr. The display flight of the male includes brief hovers, circling and rapid diving while singing.

Taxonomy and systematics

This species was first described by Linnaeus in his Systema naturae in 1758 under as Platalea pygmea. It was moved to its current genus by Sven Nilsson in 1821

It belongs to the calidrid sandpipers, but its placement inside this group is not resolved. While it is usually assigned to the monotypic genus Eurynorhynchus, its peculiar morphological adaptations and equivocal DNA sequence data preclude determination of closest relatives and evolutionary history at present.

Range and ecology

The Spoon-billed Sandpiper's breeding habitat is sea coasts and adjacent hinterland on the Chukchi Peninsula and southwards along the isthmus of the Kamchatka peninsula It migrates down the Pacific coast through Japan, North Korea, South Korea and China, to its main wintering grounds in South and South-East Asia, where it has been recorded from India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore.

Its feeding style consists of a side-to-side movement of the bill as the bird walks forward with its head down. This species nests in June-July on coastal areas in the tundra, choosing locations with grass close to freshwater pools.


This bird is endangered, with a current population of less than 2500 - probably less than 1000 - mature individuals. The main threats to its survival are habitat loss on its breeding grounds and loss of tidal flats through its migratory and wintering range. The important staging area at Saemangeum, South Korea, has already been partially reclaimed, and the remaining wetlands are under serious threat of reclamation in the near future.

Protected areas in its staging and wintering areas include Yancheng in China, Mai Po Marshes in Hong Kong and Point Calimere and Chilka lake in India, and a specialist research team found 84 Spoon-billed Sandpipers at two coastal wetland sites in Burma.

Formerly classified as an Endangered species by the IUCN, recent research shows that its numbers are decreasing more and more rapidly and that it is on the verge of extinction. It is consequently uplisted to Critically Endangered status in 2008.

bird photography
All images and video © Copyright 2006-2024 Christopher Taylor, Content and maps by their respective owner. All rights reserved.
nature photography