In 2010 WWT and partners travelled to Russia to help save the last of the spoon-billed sandpipers. Numbers of these birds are thought to number fewer than 100 pairs in the wild. Eggs were collected, hatched then brought back to UK, where we now have the first captive population of these birds.

Spoon-billed sandpiper from Cornell Lab of Ornithology


Watch unprecedented video footage from Cornell Lab of Ornithology of a Spoon-billed sandpiper mother and her chicks as they explore around the nest.




Conservation Problem

The incredible Spoon-billed sandpiper is hurtling towards extinction. There are probably fewer than 100 pairs remaining and the population is in freefall. Without urgent action, it will probably be gone within a decade.

The most acute cause of the rapid decline is believed to be hunting on the birds’ wintering grounds on the coast of Bangladesh and Myanmar. The species has undoubtedly also suffered as mudflats along its migratory path have been developed. Conservation for the Spoon-billed sandpiper along the East-Asian Australasian flyway could potentially help over 50 million migratory waterbirds from over 250 different populations, including 28 globally threatened species.

Project Activities

The Spoon-billed Sandpiper's flyway covers a vast area. This SOS - Save Our Species project, implemented by Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT), will focus on both the wintering and breeding sites.

WWT is working with Birds Russia to build capacity in Russia in ‘head-starting’ and the establishment of a monitoring scheme to measure success of in situ conservation measures. Birds Russia is overseeing the Russian element of the project, which centres around head-starting, establishing the monitoring programme and the collection of eggs for the conservation breeding programme. Birds Russia Chief Executive, Evgeny Syroechkovsky, is also chair of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force.


National NGO At Sonadia Island in Bangladesh, the project staff will consolidate existing work with bird hunters, providing new and sustainable livelihoods. In the Chukotka region of Russia, the project will ‘head start’ birds – extracting eggs, incubating and rearing birds to fledging before releasing them back into the wild. This will massively increase the number of juveniles and allow staff to leg-flag birds for monitoring.

Project Outcomes

At Sonadia Island in Bangladesh the project aims to achieve a 75% reduction in the number of hunters and a similar reduction in the numbers of spoon-billed sandpipers trapped. Furthermore, at the end of the project, effective action by village conservation groups should be carried out on a regular basis.

At Meinypilgyno in Chukotka, the project will have ‘head-started’ 20 birds (fledged and released) with leg-flags by August 2012. Additionally, at least 15 birds will be added to the conservation breeding programme.

Click here to find out more about the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Project.

  • 11A-22-05
    Stealing eggs to save a species in Chukotka
    Recently in Chukotka, far-eastern Russia, SOS grantee Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) began another season of collecting eggs from Spoon-billed Sandpiper nests – in a bid to help save the species. R...
  • 11A-22-81, Slimbridge spoonie, SOS Save Our Species, WWT, Headstarting
    Eggs mean fresh hope for spoon-billed sandpipers
    One of the world’s rarest birds has a new hope: it has just started laying eggs in captivity for the first time according to a press release from previous SOS grantee and IUCN Member, Wildfowl and Wet...
  • 11A-22-75, 1 Egg collection, 16 June 2015, by Nikolai Yakushev, SOS Save Our Species, Spoon-billed Sandpiper
    Giving Spoon-billed Sandpipers a head-start on the long journey back from the brink of extinction
    Marking World Migratory Bird Day 2016, Rebecca Lee of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT), an SOS grantee, reflects on the transformation in survival prospects for this Critically Endangered and dim...
  • Lake Bogoria lesser flamingos
    World Migratory Bird Day
    World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) was initiated in 2006 and is an annual awareness-raising campaign highlighting the need for the protection of migratory birds and their habitats. On the second weekend ...
  • 11A-22-05
    New hope for spoon-billed sandpipers as hand-reared bird heads for breeding grounds
    Continued heartening news for the Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper (Eurynorhynchus pygmeus) - the little bird that keeps defying the odds. The first of a hand-reared group of birds has bee...
  • 11A-22-05
    Egg-weighing in WWT's headstarting project: click picture to learn more
  • SOS WWT SBS spoon-billed sandpiper 2011A-022 11A-22-17
    Ringing Spoon-billed Sandpiper as part of WWT project: Click picture to watch WWT video
Evgeny Syroechkovskiy, Birds Russia
Evgeny Syroechkovskiy, Birds Russia, SOS Save Our Species, 11A-022-052, WWT, Spoon-billed Sandpiper
The plight of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper has brought conservationists together from all over the world. Nowhere on the birds’ flyway is more remote or more challenging to work in than the Russian breeding grounds where we have been ‘headstarting’ young Spoon-billed Sandpipers. So the success of the programme relies heavily on the logistics and ornithologists of Birds Russia, as the host NGO, and we in turn rely on the support of Save Our Species.
SOS - Save Our Species
>> A global coalition to conserve threatened species and their habitats