Migration numbers decrease for the black-faced spoonbill


TAINAN–The number of black-faced spoonbills migrating to Taiwan in winter decreased by 23.39 percent in 2010, probably due to shrinking food sources, officials of the Chinese Wild Bird Federation said Saturday.

The black-faced spoonbill, classified as an endangered bird species under Taiwan’s Wildlife Conservative Act, is found in East Asia and Southeast Asia. The spoonbills migrate to Taiwan in October, where they over winter until March following year.

The number of black-faced spoonbills migrating to the mouth of the Tsengwen River in Tainan showed a steady increase from 2005-2009, but it dipped sharply in 2010 from 1,671 to 1,280, the federation said.

The Taijiang National Park has speculated that the drop in spoonbill migration might have been caused by a waning milkfish population, said Cheng Chien-Chung, the president of the Chinese Wild Bird Federation.

However, further observations are needed to determine the cause behind the declining bird population, Cheng said.

Milkfish farming has been shrinking as farmers are focusing more on the production of grouper, which has a higher economic value, according to Cheng.

Cheng suggested subsidization of milkfish farms to provide an additional source of food for black-faced spoonbills.

For example, he said, the Taijiang National Park has set up a milkfish farm on the Cigu campus of National Tainan University to help provide food for black-faced spoonbills, which feed mainly on small fish and shrimp.

Global surveys of black-faced spoonbills in 2010 all observed a population decline, according to Cheng.

Reports from Vietnam and China indicate that economic development has significantly reduced mudflat regions in coastal areas, making it difficult for the birds to survive, since their natural habitat is in intertidal regions, Cheng said.