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Migratory Birds Threatened

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Catastrophic recent declines in populations of the curlew sandpiper and eastern curlew have resulted in their nomination for Australia’s list of threatened species.

“Australia is the end-point of one of the world’s great bird migration routes that connects us with a dozen Asian countries,” said project leader Dr Richard Fuller of the National Environmental Research Program’s Environmental Decisions Hub. “The curlew sandpiper and eastern curlew both migrate from Australia each year to Arctic Russia where they breed, stopping off in China, Korea and other East Asian countries to refuel along the way.

“These amazing migrations are among the most awe-inspiring journeys of the natural world, with birds covering tens of thousands of kilometres each year,” he says. One bird, banded in Victoria, was next reported almost 12,000 km away in Siberia.

“However populations of these great travellers have crashed, with drops in numbers over the past 20 years of more than 75% for the curlew sandpiper and 68% for the eastern curlew”, Fuller says. “This is a devastating loss for species that were once quite common.”

According to Nick Murray, who studied coastal habitat loss in Asia for his PhD, there is a worrying possible explanation for the declines. “During their long migrations, the birds stop to feed at ‘refuelling’ sites in estuaries around the Yellow Sea....

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.