Archived 2011-2012 topics: Baer’s Pochard (Aythya baeri): request for information

This discussion was first published on Dec 3 2010 as part of the 2010-2011 Red List update, but remains open for comment to enable reassessment in 2012.

Initial deadline for comments: 31 January 2012.

Link to BirdLife species factsheet for Baer’s Pochard

Baer’s Pochard Aythya baeri is currently classified as Endangered as it is estimated to have undergone a very rapid population decline of 50-79% in the period 1998-2008, with a global population estimated at 5,000 mature individuals.

Unconfirmed reports from eastern China suggest as many as 3,000 individuals may be hunted every year (Lei Gang in litt. 2010). The revised generation length estimate for this species is 7.6 years (BirdLife International unpublished data), meaning that the rate of decline over three generations for this species would now be assessed over a 23 year period. If there was sufficient reason to believe the global population of Baer’s Pochard may have declined at a rate of at least 80% over the period 1988-2011, or is predicted to do so in the next 23 years, or is estimated/predicted to do so in any 23 year period including both the past and the future (eg. 1995-2018), then the species should be reassessed as Critically Endangered, the highest category of threat.

Up to date counts from either breeding, passage or wintering sites, particularly if these counts are available over a series of years, would be extremely useful in enabling us to estimate population trends in this species.

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7 Responses to Archived 2011-2012 topics: Baer’s Pochard (Aythya baeri): request for information

  1. Max Berlijn says:

    I wonder if it is still possible to hunt 3000 Bear’s Pochards a year? I think there is a big possibilityy that a differtent Aythya duck is involved. What I see and read in tripreports it is very difficult to find a single Bear’s Pochard in Asia nowadays.

  2. I totally agree with Andy Symes. Numbers have gone down in Bangladesh in last couple of years, less than 20 individuals were recorded from Bangladesh each winter in last c.5 years.

    I am currently conducting a thorough survey in all previously sighted Baer’s Pochard sites in Bangladesh. Hopefully, will get a clearer picture after this winter survey.

    This is an email by Jesper (China, OBC) who visited Xianghai Nature Reserve, which is known as one of the key breeding grounds of Baer’s Pochard : “As far as I know Baer’s Pochard no longer breeds at Xianghai Reserve. There was a prolonged draught so all the ‘steppe pools’ dried up. The 1st time I went, in autumn, we were shown a lovely pool where we were told Baer’s Pochard bred – however, by the following spring the pool had dried up.”

    Its is clear that more surveys are required n the breeding and wintering sites. Along with up-listing the threat category, urgent conservation measures must be taken to conserve this species. Also, a database of the captive population would be useful for future conservation.

  3. Mark Barter says:

    During the last two winters we have conducted extensive waterbird surveys of wetlands along the Yangtze River in Anhui Province, eastern China, and have located what appears to be the largest known current concentration of Baer’s Pochard at Wuchang Hu.

    Numbers were – December 2009: 200, February 2010: 237, and late November 2010: 760. Totals of one or two birds were seen at other lakes in the Province during the surveys.

    Apart from the Anhui Lakes, Poyang Hu and Dongting Hu are probably the only other wetlands where Baer’s Pochard could be present in numbers and it will be interesting to see whether any are found at these sites during the current winter.

    Lei Cao, Mark Barter and Tony Fox

  4. Andy Symes says:

    Simba Chan provided the following additional information:
    I have asked Lei Gang. He said the number of Baer’s Pochards hunted in China was from reliable hunters at Rudong, Jiangsu Province. I questioned if there were as many as 3000 birds were hunted every year in autumn, how come no birdwatchers reported a higher number of Baer’s Pochards there — Rudong is the site famous for the Spoon-billed Sandpipers and lots of experienced birders visit the area during the shorebird migration season.

    We suspected those were other species but misinterpreted by the hunters. Baer’s Pochard and Mallard both means a ” green-headed duck’ n Chinese.

  5. Wei Qian says:

    Since the winter of 2005, not under any waterbird surveys only by birdwatchers with totally imcomplete observing, 5 individuals were recorded in Guanghan, a city of north-central Chengdu Plain, Sichuan, China in winter 2006-2007, and the next winter 2007-2008, 3 at the same place and meanwhile 3 were observed in Chengdu City, the central of Chengdu Plain.

  6. Paul Thompson says:

    Just to reinforce Sayam’s post. In Bangladesh, while there were counts in the hundreds in the early-mid-1990s at 2 main wetland complexes, the number seen each winter in the last decade is under 20. I’ve heard from Enam Ul Haque of only 4 seen in AWC counts this Jan. While there have been some changes in habitat in the last 20 years these are not so major, hunting pressure on ducks is if anything lower rather than higher in recent years, so the reasons for the decline appear likely to be outside of this wintering area.

  7. Based on recent compilation and collation of counts and observations from a wide array of available information, we are deeply concerned to find a drastic decline in wintering numbers and range contraction of Baer’s Pochard. The results of the exercise have been gathered in a database and analyses have been prepared for formal reporting, but given the urgency of the situation, we feel the very pressing need to report preliminary findings here. Because of lack of consistent and regular counts from many wintering sites, it is difficult to present count data in any logical way that provides a clear indication of true population trajectory.

    However, it is our impression from counts and speaking directly to national experts that the species has now functionally ceased to winter in regular numbers at any site outside of mainland China as of winter 2010/11. Within China, the sum of maximum annual winter counts (November to March) from each province fell from 16,792 during 1987-1993 to 2,131 in 2002-2011. There was a marked contraction of range within China over this period, with no records from many provinces in recent years, despite increases in birdwatching activity. Clearly using maximum counts over a series of years likely over-estimates the true numbers actually present in any one year, but the relative values indicate the magnitude of the decline and the geographical contraction in range which is very evident throughout the winter quarters.

    The Chinese State Forest Agency and WWF-China recently coordinated coverage of winter resorts in the middle and lower Yangtze River Floodplain (now considered the core wintering area for the species) but found less than 200 Baer’s Pochard in January 2011. Perhaps far worse, a special survey by Wuhan Birdwatching Society this winter (2011/12) did not find any Baer’s Pochard at all, even at Liangzi Lake (where the survey had found c. 130 individuals last year). Birdwatchers have also been to the upper part of Wuchang Lake in Anhui this winter where Cao Lei’s group have been finding more than 200 in recent years and found none there as well. In the Baiquan wetlands, in Wuhan, where the species was often found in the past, there are only reports of poisoned swans and geese because the water levels in winter 2011/12 are so low and people can get near to the waterbirds as never before.

    Based on improved counts from very recent years, we fear that the global population of the species is now less than 1000 individuals and are deeply concerned that the true world total could be very much lower than this. Since we find very little information about current breeding and staging areas, there is an immediate need to better understand the breeding distribution and biology of Baer’s Pochard. Given the widespread and rapid decline, it seems unlikely that factors on all the non-breeding areas have simultaneously contributed to its demise alone, although we cannot rule out the effects very heavy mortality at a key staging site (such as hunting) where a large proportion of the population passes each year. Nevertheless, there is an urgent need to determine the food supply and conditions for the species on the last few remaining lakes used on the winter quarters to secure their sympathetic management in winter, if it is not already too late. There is no denying the very urgent need for rapid and coordinated actions to protect the Baer’s Pochard throughout its remaining range and recommend suitable re-grading of its current status as soon as possible.

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