Spoon-billed Sandpiper chicks thriving at Slimbridge


Two chicks of one of the world's rarest waders have been hatched in captivity at Slimbridge WWT, the Wildfowl and Wetland's Trust (WWT) has announced.

The pair belongs to the only captive flock of Spoon-billed Sandpipers in the world, established at the Gloucestershire centre. The trust said conservationists had been "trying to coax these little birds to breed" for eight years and had now "finally cracked the problem".

Only some 200 breeding pairs of Spoon-billed Sandpiper remain in the wild (Baz Scampion).

Nigel Jarrett, from the WWT, called it "a huge breakthrough". There are only about 200 breeding pairs of the Critically Endangered species left in the wild. The WWT began trying to establish a captive flock in 2011 as a back-up to the wild population, which was declining by up to 25% a year.

Since then, of the 12 eggs have been laid by captive birds, five have hatched but no chicks have survived. The trust said it was "incredibly encouraging" the two chicks were surviving and appearing to be "adapting well to their Gloucestershire environment".

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"Playing Cupid has finally paid off and after a lot of 'will they, won't they' we were delighted to have hatched two little chicks," said Mr Jarrett.

"They have now acquired their juvenile plumage and continue to thrive."

Spoon-billed Sandpipers have never been kept in captivity before. With an annual 8,000-km trip from tropical Asia to Arctic Russia to breed, it’s unsurprising that the bird has also never been bred in captivity.

"Each of those factors could play a part in getting the birds' hormones surging, so we've done our best to recreate that experience in aviaries in Gloucestershire," said Mr Jarrett. "I'm glad to say that, with the help of special light bulbs and timer switches, along with a lot of sand and netting, we seem to have finally pulled it off."