Tag Archives: Land birds

East Asia’s Migratory Song Birds in Trouble

Dr. Nial Moores, Birds Korea, February 17th 2015

YellowbreastedBunting_6Once common, now globally Endangered: Yellow-breasted Bunting Emberiza aureola, May 2014© Nial Moores

An important paper by Ding Li Yong et al. (2015), officially published next month, provides a very useful overview of the poor (and worsening) conservation status of many of our region’s smaller migratory land birds:

“The East Asian-Australasian Flyway supports the greatest diversity and populations of migratory birds globally, as well as the highest number of threatened migratory species of any flyway, including passerines (15 species). However it is also one of the most poorly understood migration systems, and little is known about the populations and ecology of the passerine migrants that breed, stop over and winter in the habitats along this flyway. We provide the first flyway-wide review of diversity, ecology, and conservation issues relating to 170 species of long-distance and over 80 short-distance migrants from 32 families. Recent studies of songbird migration movements and ecology is limited, and is skewed towards East Asia, particularly Mainland China, Taiwan, Russia, Japan and South Korea. Strong evidence of declines exists for some species, e.g. Yellow-breasted Bunting Emberiza aureola, but tends to be fragmentary, localised or anecdotal for many others.”

The paper therefore calls for “intensive field surveys across the region while simultaneously tapping into citizen science data-sets, to identify important stop-over and wintering sites”.

Birds Korea is a small, independent organisation. Most of our work remains extremely poorly-funded, if at all. Nonetheless, Birds Korea has already been conducting intensive field surveys at important stop-over sites for over a decade (indeed, helping to first-identify some of the migration hotspots mentioned in the recent paper); we have also long been tapping into citizen science data-sets, as can be seen in our Annual Year Reviews, the only such reviews of Korean avifauna. As an organisation, we have therefore already been able to contribute much to the identification of migration corridors; and to the identification of population trends in many of the ROK’s regularly occurring species, with much of our research published in last year’s pioneering report “Status of Birds, 2014 ”.

It is true that Birds Korea lacks the organisational capacity and social networking skills of many other organisations, both large and small. We are not good at self-promotion. However, thanks to the hard work of our members and supporters, we were able to predict the impacts of large-scale reclamation on migratory shorebirds and to conduct the necessary research. And the research proved our predictions correct. We even found a way to measure tidal-flat area. And other much better-funded research proved our estimate to be valid. We were also able to predict some of the impacts on migratory waterbird populations to be caused by the ecologically-disastrous Four Rivers project. And again, we conducted the necessary research (focused on the analysis of data published by the Ministry of Environment); and again this research proved our predictions correct (see Slide 12 in our presentation and pp. 37-41 of “Status of Birds, 2014″).

And in the case of migratory land birds?  Our research to date already suggests clearly that many species are in decline. If we are to help the nation avoid a future of Silent Springs, Birds Korea needs the necessary support to conduct more research; and (as importantly) to have this research properly heard, so that decision-makers and the nation can take the best steps forward.