A record number of the rare species is tallied at Mai Po A record number of black-faced spoonbills, a globally endangered migratory bird, has returned to spend winter in Mai Po this year. Researchers counted 305 spoonbills on Monday at a pond inside the nature reserve, one of the world's most important wintering sites for the species. They are believed to represent more than a quarter of the bird's global population. Mai Po's previous record of 262 spoonbills was recorded in December last year. This month, 615 spoonbills were recorded in Taiwan. The new record excludes those staying outside the reserve around the Deep Bay area but may have included birds that are on their way to other wintering sites. It is anticipated that the number will peak soon. 'Not much is known about why the number is increasing. It could be due to better protection of the habitats on the mainland or breeding grounds in Korea,' said Lew Young, the manager of the Mai Po Nature Reserve. He said the reserve was prepared for the birds' return and had lowered water levels in some ponds so that the birds could feed more easily on small shrimp and fish. The spoonbills normally leave breeding grounds in the north, such as the demilitarised zone between South and North Korea, as winter approaches. Along their migratory routes south, they rest in eastern China before wintering in Taiwan, Fujian, Hong Kong, Macau, Guangdong, Guangxi, Vietnam and Thailand. The bird was once classified as critically endangered but numbers have risen over the past decade. Dr Lew said a better estimate of the birds' worldwide population was hoped for after a simultaneous count in different wintering sites in January. But he warned that some wintering sites such as those in Macau were disappearing because of development. Last year, about 46 birds were recorded in Macau, but only 20 have been sighted this year.