First Nordmann's Greenshank nest found in 40 years


The Wildlife Conservation Society has announced that an international team of biologists found the nest of a Nordmann's Greenshank this summer – the first to be discovered in more than 40 years.

This species, one of the most threatened shorebirds in the world and classed as Endangered, is thought to have a population of fewer than 2,000 individuals. They nest only in Russia and have experienced a steep population decline in recent decades, linked largely to habitat destruction and illegal hunting in South-East Asia, where they spend the winter.

Nordmann's Greenshank on the nest (Philipp Maleko/Vladimir Pronkevich/Konstantin Maslovskii).

Dr Vladimir Pronkevich, of the Institute of Aquatic and Ecological Problems (Russian Academy of Sciences), was the leader of the expedition and said: "Almost nothing is known about their breeding ecology, which makes this new discovery so important."

Assisted by Konstantin Maslovskii (junior researcher, Federal Scientific Center of East Asian Terrestrial Biodiversity, Russian Academy of Sciences) and Philipp Maleko (research assistant, University of Florida Gainesville), Dr Pronkevich spent two-and-a-half months at the Bay of Sсhastye, in the remote south-western corner of the Sea of Okhotsk in the Russian Far East. 

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The expedition was a pilot study to learn more about Nordmann’s Greenshank breeding and migration ecology. The group found the nest on 17 June. Unlike most shorebird species, Nordmann's Greenshank nests in trees. This one, situated on a branch nearly four metres up a larch tree, was constructed of twigs and lined with lichens that helped camouflage the eggs. Unfortunately, the nest failed, with at least two of the four eggs predated by corvids. 

Later, the team also captured and released seven adult birds and eight of their chicks, ringing each one. By early August, three of the adults had already been seen in Shanghai, China, some 1,864 miles to the south. Most of the Nordmann's Greenshank population will travel a further 1,800 miles to Thailand and Malaysia for the winter.

Dr Jonathan Slaght, the Wildlife Conservation Society's representative to the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership, said: "It's inspiring to see international collaborations like this in action. The work being done with Nordmann's Greenshanks in Russia informs their conservation in South-East Asia and vice versa."

By the end of July, the team had extensively observed, photographed, and recorded several behaviours such as foraging, mating, and bathing. The team left having taken the first-ever video of a Nordmann’s Greenshank nest, the first photos of an incubating adult and the first vocalisations of chicks. You can view the video below.