Endangered black-faced spoonbills’ rise not reflected in Hong Kong

International census recorded a 17.4pc increase in endangered birds globally, but just four more in local habitat

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 March, 2017, 10:02pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 March, 2017, 3:06pm

The global number of endangered black-faced spoonbills rose to a record high this year, but a concern group has voiced fears over whether the ­birds’ local habitathas deteriorated, with only a single-digit increase ­recorded in the city.

The annual international census, organised by the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society, mobilised around 200 volunteers and scholars to conduct observations at more than 70 sites in Asia where black-faced spoonbills could be found.

Some 3,941 birds were recorded between January 13 and 15, a 17.4 per cent increase from 3,356 birds last year.

But the number of birds seen in Deep Bay, which covers both Hong Kong and Shenzhen waters, only increased by four – from 371 last year.

“The total number of birds [of all species] in Deep Bay has in fact dropped,” said Yu Yat-tung, research manager of the society.

“I have started to suspect there might be ecological problems. Deep Bay is surrounded by a total ­population of 21 million people [from both Hong Kong and Shenzhen]. That may put a lot of pressure on the wetland, which might experience changes if the pollution gets worse.”

Sung Yik-hei, lecturer of the Baptist University’s department of biology, said human interference ­remained the most important factor affecting birds and their habitats.

“Rapid development in Shenzhen and human ­activities could possibly affect the number of birds,” said Sung.

“Now we have close to 4,000 birds worldwide. But their future would be more secure if that could increase to at least 7,000,” said Sung.

The birds usually migrate from north to south around October.

While they are commonly seen on the mudflats of Deep Bay and Mai Po Nature Reserve in Hong Kong, their pattern of living has been changing.

The total number of birds [of all species] in Deep Bay has in fact dropped
Yu Yat-tung, Hong Kong Bird Watching Society

Yu said the birds used to stay in a large groups at a certain spot in Mai Po, but in recent years they scattered, indicating a possible change in the quality of habitat.

In other parts of the region, Taiwan was the most popular destination for black-faced spoonbills, with 2,601 birds spotted. It also recorded an increase of 541 birds from last year, the biggest rise among all places surveyed.

Birds found in Deep Bay and Taiwan accounted for around 75 per cent of the spoonbills’ worldwide population.

Japan recorded 433 birds in the census – exceeding 400 for the first time since recording began in 1989. Vietnam also saw a rise.

But the mainland, Macau and South Korea all recorded drops in the census. Sung said educating the public on conservation was important to protecting the birds.