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  Yahoo News 11 Oct 07
Survey: Sandpiper on brink of extinction
By Michael Casey, AP Environmental Writer

A rare bird that breeds in a remote Russian province is facing extinction, conservationists warned Friday, after a survey found that the numbers of the spoon-billed sandpiper had dropped dramatically.

Experts from the Britain-based conservation group BirdLife International blamed the decline of breeding pairs in Chukotka province on loss of key feeding sites during their migration from Russia to its wintering grounds in South Asia.

The bird is also fighting a losing battle at its Russian breeding grounds against foxes and dogs that eat the eggs, the group said.

"We've seen a 70 percent drop in the number of breeding pairs at some sites over the last couple of years," said Evgeny Syroechkovskiy, vice president of the Russian group. "If that continues, these amazing birds won't be around for much longer."

The World Conservation Union list the bird as endangered with only 200 to 300 pairs left in the wild.

Syroechkovskiy said Russian authorities need to do more to protect the birds, including boosting patrols where the birds nest. The wading birds are hard to miss, with their red head, speckled body and spoon-shaped bills.

"Once they are protected and the birds are successfully fledging young, we can get on with the task of trying to save areas that they use whilst on migration," Syroechkovskiy said.

But experts say it will be more challenging to protect key feeding sites along the bird's migration route, which takes it down the western Pacific coast through Russia, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, mainland China and Taiwan, to its main wintering grounds in South and Southeast Asia.

South Korea, for one, has come under fire for converting about half the country's 988,400 acres of tidal flats to farming and industry since 1960s.

On the Net: http://www.birdlife.org/

Related articles on Global issues: biodiversity
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