Archived 2015 topics: Far Eastern Curlew (Numenius madagascariensis): uplist from Vulnerable to Endangered or Critically Endangered?

Far Eastern Curlew (BirdLife factsheet) breeds in eastern Russia, from the upper reaches of the Nizhnyaya Tunguska river east though the Verkhoyarsk mountains to Kamchatka, and south to Primorye and north-eastern Mongolia (Van Gils & Wiersma 1996). The Yellow Sea of North Korea, South Korea and China is a particularly important stopover site on migration, with most birds wintering in Australia, but also in China, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and New Zealand (Van Gils & Wiersma 1996). The global population has been estimated at 32,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2015), including 28,000 in Australia (Bamford et al. 2008)

It is currently listed as Vulnerable as it is undergoing a rapid population decline which is suspected to have been primarily driven by habitat loss and deterioration.

BirdLife Australia Threatened Species Committee, which applies the IUCN Categories and Criteria at the national level, recently recommended its uplisting from Vulnerable to Critically Endangered (under criterion A2bc+3bc+4bc) in Australia (Garnett 2015), and the recommendation was subsequently accepted by the BirdLife Australia Research and Conservation Committee. The proposal was based on a detailed analysis of all monitoring data collected on shorebirds around Australia and New Zealand in the last 30 years (Studds et al. in prep) – see extract here:


Annual rate of decline Generation time Loss over three generations Action Plan status 2010 Recommended status 2015
-0.058 10.1 -81.7 Vulnerable Critically Endangered

For shorebirds of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway there is considerable concern that loss of intertidal stopover habitat in the Yellow Sea region of East Asia is driving population declines (Amano et al. 2010; Yang et al. 2011). Up to 65 percent of intertidal habitat in the Yellow Sea has been lost over the past 50 years, and habitat is currently disappearing at a rate of >1 percent annually owing to reclamation for agriculture, aquaculture, and other development (Murray et al. 2014). Current rates of Yellow Sea habitat loss seem likely to continue or accelerate owing to projected human population growth, much of it concentrated along the margins of the Yellow Sea.

Since the species is restricted to this flyway, and loss of habitat at critical stopover sites in the Yellow Sea is suspected to be the key threat to the species, trends in the Australasian population in the non-breeding season are thought to be representative of the overall global trend, thus it is proposed that the species be listed as Endangered or Critically Endangered globally.

However, the possibility that there has been a shift in the wintering range rather than a genuine decline should also be considered.

Comments on this proposal, including trends from elsewhere in the range, threats to the species and the likely representativeness of the Australasian data, are welcomed.


Amano, T., T. Szekely, K. Koyama, H. Amano, and W. J. Sutherland. 2010. A framework for monitoring the status of populations: An example from wader populations in the East Asian-Australasian flyway. Biological Conservation 143:2238-2247.

Bamford, M.; Watkins, D.; Bancroft, W.; Tischler, G.; Wahl, J. 2008. Migratory shorebirds of the East Asian-Australasian flyway: population estimates and internationally important sites. Wetlands International – Oceania, Canberra.

Garnett, S. T. 2015. BirdLife Australia Threatened Species Committee report to RACC. 23rd January 2015. Unpublished report.

Murray, N. J., R. S. Clemens, S. R. Phinn, H. P. Possingham, and R. A. Fuller. 2014. Tracking the rapid loss of tidal wetlands in the Yellow Sea. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 12:267-272

Studds, C. E. et al. in prep. Dependence on the Yellow Sea predicts population collapse in a migratory flyway.

Van Gils, J. & Wiersma, P. (1996). Far Eastern Curlew (Numenius madagascariensis). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.) (2014). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 22 July 2015)

Wetlands International (2015). “Waterbird Population Estimates” . Retrieved from on Wednesday 22 Jul 2015

Yang, H. Y., B. Chen, M. Barter, T. Piersma, C. F. Zhou, F. S. Li, and Z. W. Zhang. 2011. Impacts of tidal land reclamation in Bohai Bay, China: ongoing losses of critical Yellow Sea waterbird staging and wintering sites. Bird Conservation International 21: 241-259

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2 Responses to Archived 2015 topics: Far Eastern Curlew (Numenius madagascariensis): uplist from Vulnerable to Endangered or Critically Endangered?

  1. Andy Symes (BirdLife) says:

    Recommended categorisation to be put forward to IUCN

    The recommended categorisation for this species on the 2015 Red List status will be Endangered under criterion A.

    The final categorisation will be published on the BirdLife website in late October and on the IUCN website in November, following further checking of information relevant to the assessment by BirdLife and IUCN.

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