Why Study Shorebirds

A survey by the international Wader Study Group in 2003 showed that of 207 shorebird populations with known population trajectories (out of a total of 511 populations), almost half (48%) are now known to be in decline whereas only 16% are increasing.

With three times as many populations in decline rather than increase, shorebirds must be considered as the most globally endangered segment of the long-distance migrants of the world.

Spoon-billed Sandpiper

The Spoon-billed Sandpiper is one of the most threatened migratory species on the flyway. Image: © 2006 Jan van de Kam.

Shorebirds or waders are unique among the truly long-distance migrant birds by virtue of the way that they connect continents and hemispheres with their intercontinental individual movements. Shorebirds depend on rare and remote open habitats for their breeding (mainly in the far North). For their survival over the nonbreeding season they rely on the coastal fringes of the continents and the ephemeral freshwater habitats of continental basins.

By their very nature, shorebirds are particularly susceptible to the effects of:

  • human encroachment on coastal habitats
  • over-exploitation of marine resources
  • loss of scarce freshwater resources
  • global climate change.

Using the Global Flyway Network, established in association with BirdLife Netherlands and BirdLife International, as an umbrella, we propose the amalgamation of a series of existing demographic research initiatives into a truly worldwide observatory of the changing fates of the world’s shorebird populations and the habitats upon which they depend for their existence.