Curlew Sandpiper - flags

Subject: Curlew Sandpiper - flags
From: "Marilyn Davis" <>
Date: Mon, 01 Apr 2002 19:18:50 +0800
Hello Everybody

It appears that the Curlew Sandpiper population has been declining steadily in recent years. Some scientists would like us to believe that the decline is caused by habitat destruction along their East Asian flyway (migration route).

While habitat protection is paramount to the survival of birds, anyone familiar with the East Asian flyway will know that Curlew Sandpiper habitat destruction along that route is not the likely main cause for decline of this species.

The cause for the decline of Curlew Sandpiper most likely results from targeting by bird banders; many thousands of these birds have been leg flagged in recent years and most of them die within one year of being marked. Although there is an occasional survivor, very few small waders are relocated more than one year after leg flagging even though it is known that Curlew Sandpipers can live for 18 years or more with a single metal band.

Regular field counts show that some wader species are in population decline and the decline correlates with the commencement of large scale leg flagging projects. Banders have not publicly revealed (on the internet), total number of waders of each species that have been leg flagged in Australia or other parts of the world over the past seven years. This information has been requested but it seems that banding organisations are embarrassed to reveal the total figures.

Leg flagged birds simply disappear in the main. They are more disadvantaged than unmarked birds being more vulnerable to hazards including predation, exhaustion, hindered from feeding competitively, tangling, more vulnerable to strong wind and severe weather battering, stress and also probably other subtle disadvantages to their survival and social interaction.

It appears Curlew Sandpipers rarely survive their long migration after being shackled often with up to three large colored flags and also a metal band. Cannon netting, a technique used to catch waders is also responsible for killing many birds (+/- 4%) but this is a relatively insignificant impact compared to the death toll that mounts rapidly, particularly when small waders have been leg flagged. It is well known that other small wader species such as Red-necked Stints are also suffering but their their population may be more sustainable.

Many observers recognise the problem but are reluctant to say anything as many banders are prominent in ornithological clubs and societies. Bird banding has become a social culture and little effort is made to raise issues of concern and objectively assess the dire impacts of leg flagging small waders due to a fear of being ostracised by the group. Most small waders die within one year of leg flagging. Curlew Sandpiper is in rapid decline and one of the main causes is leg flagging. Lets hope that the destruction caused to wader populations from leg flagging will be openly recognised soon and that this most cruel of research techniques will soon be banned.

Happy Easter

Marilyn Davis

Via Katherine NT

NG-AUS] Curlew Sandpiper - flags

Hi All Ringers,
We saw an adult Curlew Sandpiper at Seeberg hide Langebaan Lagoon ,west coast South Africa with a yellow flag on its right upper leg. A bird was seen on Sunday 24/3/2002 and again on Friday 29/3/2002. Don't know if it was the same bird but seen in the same area.Any ideas out there who may have placed it on the bird.

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