BirdLife: The Magazine September 2017 - Page 30

GOING SOUTH T he Numeniini — a tribe of large waders including curlews and godwits — is one of the most threatened bird groups on the planet. As explored elsewhere in this issue, the once-abundant Eskimo Curlew Numenius borealis of the Americas is now considered Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct), having last been spotted with certainty in the 1960s. But the plight of the Numeniini also extends over the Atlantic into the Old World. Here, the extensive drainage of wetlands across the Mediterranean and North Africa — important wintering grounds for many migratory birds across the African-Eurasian Flyway — has ren- dered another species, the Slender-billed Cur- lew Numenius tenuirostris, missing in action for almost a quarter of a century. DOWNWARD CURVE The curlews are one of the most widespread and far-travelling of all the bird families — and also one of the most threatened. It seems that wherever they roam, habitat loss and human encroachment follows… Connie Warren BirdLife Australia 30 BIRDLIFE • SEPTEMBER 2017 Like the Eskimo Curlew, the possibility of the extinction of the Slender-billed Curlew cannot be confirmed for sure until we have scoured the entirety of its known breeding grounds in the Siberian wilderness for a remnant population. And although it hasn’t been recorded with con- fidence across its wintering range since Febru- ary 1995, it’s possible that a few remaining Slen- der-billed Curlews — gregarious birds by nature — are still making the long trip south as part of a flock of a more common species, such as Eur- asian Curlew Numenius arquata or Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus . Attempts to track down a straggling Slen- der-billed Curlew population continue, with the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) recently using environmental data, gleaned from tiny atoms harvested from museum specimens, to pin- point a potential breeding ground in the Kazakh steppes. But with each year that passes, it becomes more likely that Europe has suffered its first avian extinction since the Great Auk Pin- guinus impennis croaked its last in 1852. But while chasing ghosts is all well and good, those who don’t learn from history, as the saying goes, are doomed to repeat it. Attention must now be given to helping to protect the mem- bers of the Numeniini tribe that we know are still with us — and of this group, there is none more imperiled than the Far Eastern Curlew Numenius madagascariensis. The Far Eastern Curlew is the largest and one of the most threatened migratory shore- birds in the world. Found only across the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (EAAF), this long- billed, intrepid traveller is finding it harder and harder to complete its gruelling migration jour- ney each year, as its habitat continues to disap- pear along the flyway. Like most migratory shorebirds along the EAAF, the biggest conservation challenge for the Far Eastern Curlew is the urgent need to protect SEPTEMBER 2017 • BIRDLIFE THOSE WHO DON’T LEARN FROM HISTORY, AS THE SAYING GOES, ARE DOOMED TO REPEAT IT remaining intertidal habitat in the Yellow Sea (see page 28), a bottleneck for shorebirds on both their northward and southward migrations. While protecting habitat in the Yellow Sea is crit- ical to the future of the Far Eastern Curlew, we also need to ensure that this magnificent bird, assessed by BirdLife as Endangered due to its recent, rapid population declines, has access to sufficient, high quality habitat across all stages of its epic migration journey. Australia has a particularly important role to play. For almost six months of the year, over 70 per cent of the world’s Far Eastern Curlews call Australia home. It’s the last stop on their southward migration and where they build their energy and fat stores to prepare them for the migration back to their breeding grounds in the Arctic. The scale of habitat loss in Australia may not be as dramatic as in the Yellow Sea, but Aus- tralians’ love for the coast has no doubt con- tri 'WFVBFFRFV6ƖRFRv&N( 2V7FW&7W&WrVFw&vrFVBf"67B6FRFWfVVG0BFRWfW"֖7&V6rVBbV7FfGW"&V6W22VBFBf"f V7FW&7W&Ww2v&RF&W6ǒv'`V2FW&R2W72BW72VF7GW&&VBfVVBЦrB&7Fr&FBBFR6WFW&7@VBbFV"֖w&FW&WF2W2FR6W2W7G&ƖFB7F7WЧ'B&vRV&W'2bf"V7FW&7W&Ww2WfV&R'FBFFR7W'ffbF27V6W2&WF&VVV6B2R7V66RFRf7BVFfG2b&WF&&fFRfVf"fW"CfW'vFW&r֖w&F'6&V&&G2V6V"6VFrfW"2f V7FW&7W&Ww2f"F2&V6B2&V6v6V@'&&DƖfR2&F'FB&&Bb&FfW"Ч6G&V$BW&FfW'6G&V$f"V7FW&7W&WrFvrƕr6WGFW'7F6 U5E$Ĕ>( dPd"DR45@2DT%@4E$%UDTBDDRd"T5DU$5U$U~( 2DT4ĔP&WF&26'FB6Rf WfVRf"V7FW&7W&Ww2vFVp&&G2&VrFR&f"WFGvV'0gFW"FV"f'7B6WFv&B֖w&FW&RFW7FW"FRf&vr62FW( VVBF7W7FFVf"֖w&F2F6RखFV'&WF&6VB6FVRF&V6fR6Rf"f"V7FW&7W&Ww2Ɨ7FVBVFW"FR&6"6fVFvWBЦG2N( 2&FV7FVBVFW"F2FW&FG&VGBW7G&ƖFW7F2r2RbFP7B'FBvWFG2FRv&BॖWBN( 276&RFBFRW7G&ƖvfW&V@6VB6&fR&B&W6FVFFWfVVBvFFR&WF&&6 6FRFW7G&r'FB&FBf"f"V7BЦW&7W&WrB6WGFrFvW&W2&V6VFV@f"FRgWGW&R&FV7Fb&6"Ɨ7FVBvWBЦG27&72FRv&B3