Birding Beijing Becomes A BirdLife Species Champion!

Roughly one in eight of the world’s 10,000 bird species is facing extinction.  To be precise, 727 are classified as “Vulnerable”, 389 “Endangered” and 197 “Critically Endangered”.  See here.  Scientists estimate that the natural extinction rate for birds is one species per 100 years.  In the last 30 years alone we have lost 21.

Threatened birds are spread throughout the world.  China is home to 87, of which 62 are classified “Vulnerable”, 16 “Endangered” and 9 “Critically Endangered”.

Since arriving in Beijing in August 2010, I have been fortunate to see 27 of China’s threatened birds, including 4 “Critically Endangered”  – Baer’s Pochard, Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Siberian Crane and Chinese Crested Tern.  Although two of the “Critically Endangered” species were seen on dedicated trips to specific locations where they are almost guaranteed, I have been fortunate enough to find two myself in Beijing – Baer’s Pochard and Siberian Crane.

Watching a Baer’s Pochard on a small reservoir in Beijing, I couldn’t help but think about the threats that this bird faced on its lonely journey north – whether it would find a mate and, given the long-term drought in northeast China, whether it would find a suitable breeding site.  And if it did, would breeding be successful?  It seemed to me a perilous situation for this bird.  At the same time I felt inspired to do what I could to help halt the slide towards extinction of this species and others like it.  I am constantly surprised and encouraged by examples of the resilience of nature, if given a chance.  The contributions of Chinese ornithologists to save species such as the Crested Ibis, Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Chinese Crested Tern are all good examples of dedicated efforts giving these species a fighting chance.  I am hopeful that the Baer’s Pochard, and others like it, can be saved with a combination of modest resources, targeted action and dedicated people on the ground.

After exploring how best I could make a difference, I decided that the first step would be to support the Preventing Extinctions Programme by becoming a Species Champion.  BirdLife International is the largest international partnership of conservation organisations and is the authority for birds on the IUCN Red List.  It is therefore well placed to initiate and coordinate action plans, in direct collaboration with local organisations, to help save the most threatened species.  You can see examples of their ongoing work here.

Of course, I have a particular interest in China’s birds and I will soon be launching an appeal for one species in particular that BirdLife needs urgent help to save…  watch this space!

7 thoughts on “Birding Beijing Becomes A BirdLife Species Champion!”

  1. Much respect. In a couple of weeks, I will be doing my usual voluntary stint at The British Bird Fair working for Wildsounds, the first Species Champion for the Spoon-billed Sandpiper. Their support, with others, has made such a difference for this species and as you say, has given it a fighting chance. I know the extended commitment needed to become a species champion and have the utmost respect for what you have done. Baer’s Pochard stands more of a fighting chance now, thanks to you.

    1. Thank you, Ken! And much respect to you, too, for the work you have done to highlight the plight of the SBS and your voluntary work. Individuals can make a difference if they choose to.

  2. I second Ken’s comments, Terry – well done for becoming a BirdLife Species Champion. At Birdwatch magazine we did the same for Azores Bullfinch several years ago, promoting its cause as much as possible and helping contribute somewhere in excess of €40,000 to conservation efforts. That species is slowly recovering in numbers through the efforts of a team of dedicated field workers, managed by Portuguese BirdLife partner SPEA. Through your sponsorship and promotion of Baer’s Pochard, I hope that that species will receive a boost of its own – though it must be a trickier proposition to protect and conserve.

    1. Thanks Dominic. Great work with the Azores Bullfinch. If I can come anywhere close to that for China’s threatened species, I will be very happy indeed. Baer’s Pochard is a species I am particularly concerned about and it is certainly a difficult species to protect, being migratory. There are others, too, in desperate need of assistance, which I will blog about soon.

  3. Congratulations !
    By the way, I had talk to Christoph about my idea, we managed to save the some part of habitat in Rudong for Spoon-billed Sandpiper and other waders infuture!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.