Re: Curlew Sandpiper: Decline caused by leg flagging

Subject: Re: Curlew Sandpiper: Decline caused by leg flagging
From: Frank O'Connor <>
Date: Mon, 16 Dec 2002 01:56:02 +0800

On Tue, 19 Nov 2002 22:07:42 +1100 (EST) Kym Bennet <> wrote :
>This bird fluttered across the sand away from me.
>Its left leg was dangling and the lower leg (tarsus),
>sharply bent outwards. The bird rose into the air but
>it soon flopped down again a short distance away. Then
>it attempted to stand up briefly on what was clearly a
>broken leg at the first main joint where there was an
>orange/yellow coloured plastic flag above. There was no
>right leg to be seen. In such circumstances, this bird
>would have used its good leg if it had one and it
>appeared to be missing.

Sorry to continue this debate, but I have just returned from Broome where I participated in a wader banding expedition... Some points from Kym's notes above that need to be corrected :

1. Waders are banded with a metal band on the left tarsus (lower leg). Kym, you did not see the metal band.

2. The leg flag is always placed on the right tibia (upper leg). You claim the flag was on the left tibia.

3. You claim that 50,000+ Curlew Sandpipers have been leg flagged in the past few years. Please quote your source for this. There are not this many birds flagged in a year across all species in the world. We caught about 3,700 waders in 4 weeks in the north west. Several hundred of these were retraps and the 1st year godwits and knots in Broome were given a yellow cohort colour band in place of the leg flag, so we put about 3,000 to 3,200 flags on the birds. This is the biggest flagging effort done for 12 months. About 100 of these were Curlew Sandpipers. So your 50,000+ claim cannot be supported by any possible facts. Certainly, more than 100 are flagged in Victoria, but certainly less than 1,000 a year. Leg flagging did not commence until about 1992.

On Thu, 21 Nov 2002 16:30:04 +1100 (EST) Kym Bennet <> wrote :
>PS. Andrew- Early in our wader season corresponds with

4. The waders usually don't return to Perth in WA until the first or second week of October. I can't see why Victoria and South Australia would be any earlier, as the adult birds land in northern Australia in August/September and refuel before moving on south. Maybe this is why you don't see the leg flagged Sanderlings?

As for those worried about the effect of a leg flag on a swimming Red-necked Phalarope, the weight of the metal band plus flag is about 0.2grams. The flag freely rotates on the upper leg. So its affect on the bird is 3/5 of 5/8 of .... all.

On the recent expedition, we caught two Grey-tailed Tattlers with Taiwanese bands on 80 Mile Beach. The first was banded in 1988, and so is a 15+ year old bird. The second with a white leg flag over a blue leg flag was banded in August 2000, and so is a 3+ year old bird. Taiwan has only leg flagged about 50 Grey-tailed Tattlers so this is an outstanding recovery.

Frank O'Connor     Birding WA
Phone : (08) 9386 5694                Email : 

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