The AFCoW News & Events section will provide an outlet for news reports and commentary on waterbirds in the Asian Flyways as well as reporting on new publications (see References). A schedule of Events will be provided for meetings, workshops, and other activities that may interest AFCoW members. Please feel free to send topics for News & Events to the organizers through the contact page or listserve.

AFCoW in February: Shorebirds in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway highly rely on mollusc aquaculture on intertidal mudflats along the Chinese coast

Hebo Peng is a PhD in the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. He has conducted 12 years of shorebird research along the Chinese coast, including 9 years of studies covering the entire Chinese coast with shorebird and macrobenthic sampling. In addition, he is now involved in some research on the effects of environmental pollution on shorebirds.

Understanding the habitat quality and the threats encountered by birds during migration, and how they adapt to local environments, are among the most critical knowledge issues for bird conservation. Especially for shorebirds in East Asian-Australasian Flyway (EAAF), a flyway in which in-depth studies had a late start. We explored the use of tracking techniques to understand habitat selection and site utilization by shorebirds and to understand the patterns thus described, we surveyed shorebird food, the macrobenthos, at stopover and staging sites along the entire coast of China. By analysing the responses of shorebirds to habitat loss and degradation and human activity, we explored how birds adapt to the rapid and dramatic changes in habitats. We found that aquaculture practices had altered the biodiversity patterns and stability of mollusc communities throughout coastal China. The distribution of shorebirds was highly correlated to the distribution of aquaculture molluscs. Because migratory shorebirds rely on aquaculture molluscs for food, and the instability of food resources resulted in frequent food crises for the birds, which respond in terms of migration timing, energy reserve, and movements. Better understanding of the habitat quality of intertidal mudflats and rational management of aquaculture activities along China’s coasts, will provide sufficient help for the conservation of the shorebirds in EAAF.

Video on Bilibili: CLICK HERE

AFCoW in January: Migration, wintering ecology and conservation of waterfowl in Japan – Lake Izunuma-Uchinuma as typical examples

Tetsuo SHIMADA is a research section head in the Miyagi Prefectural Izunuma-Uchinuma Environmental Foundation, northern Japan. He is vice president of The Ornithological Society of Japan. Lake Izunuma-Uchinuma is Ramsar site and EAAFP site. He and his team of researchers have been undertaking a tracking survey and elucidation of wintering ecology of waterfowl wintering in Japan including mainly the lake.

Japan has the largest population of waterfowl wintering in eastern Asia as exemplified by Greater White-fronted Geese, Whooper, and Bewick’s Swans, and several ducks. Lake Izunuma-Uchinuma, located in northern Japan, is one of the largest wintering sites for waterfowl in Japan. Especially, the population of Greater White-fronted Geese around the lake is 280,000 and occupies more than 90% of the whole population in Japan. Lake Izunuma-Uchinuma is a very shallow lake surrounded by rice fields. Its maximum depth is 1.6m, and the size, is 491ha. Geese, Swans, and ducks widely demand a variety of foods like plants, fishes, and crustaceans in/around the lake that constitute an essential basement of the regional ecosystem. My team and I have been studying the migration and wintering ecology of waterfowl in Lake Izunuma-Uchinuma for 30 years. First, the migration of geese, swans, and ducks that have been identified so far will be described. Greater White-fronted Geese departed from Lake Izunuma-Uchinuma and reached the Bering Sea coast via Hokkaido and the Kamchatka Peninsula. Whooper swans departing from Lake Izunuma-Uchinuma traversed Hokkaido and the Sea of Okhotsk before reaching the Russian interior. This is followed by an explanation of the wintering ecology of Greater White-fronted Geese, Black Brant, Whooper Swans, Mallards, and Northern Pintails. The geese foraged in farmland during the day, and the swans in the lake foraging for rhizome of lotus. Ducks foraged in farmland at night. Lake Izunuma-Uchinuma has high biodiversity: mammals, birds, insects, plants, and so on. The total number of species inhabiting in and around the lake is about 1,500 species. Finally, I introduce conservation activities such as the eradication of invasive fish, largemouth bass to conserve biodiversity.

Video on Bilibili: CLICK HERE


2023 December: two talk in this webinar!


1. Fight or Flight: Investigating the response of shorebird flocks to uncrewed aerial vehicles

By Joshua Wilson who is a PhD candidate in the School of Environment at the University of Queensland, Australia. He has been investigating the use of uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAV) to survey shorebirds as they forage across vast intertidal habitats. As a first step, he has been studying the response of mixed-species shorebird flocks to an approaching UAV.

2. Variation and Status of ducks (Anatidae) species  during migration period: Case Study Chukh Lake

By Altangerel Tsogtmagnai who is a researcher in the Mongolian Bird Conservation Center and also serves as the coordinator of the Chukh Bird Research Station. His work and that of his team primarily involves researching the ecology, biology, and migration of endangered species in eastern Mongolia. Furthermore, the CBRS primarily concentrates on the study of shorebirds and waterbirds.


Or watch the recording on Bilibili: Click HERE


2023 November: Barnacle geese vs White-fronted geese: how incomers can affect native fauna

Julia Loshchagina is a scientific researcher at the Laboratory of Biogeography at the Institute of Geography of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow. She has been working with Arctic birds since 2013. Currently, she is part of a team studying bird populations on Kolguev Island in the European Russian Arctic. Since 2006, the research team has been monitoring the avifauna of Kolguev and conducted detailed studies on geese, Long-tailed ducks and waders.

Kolguev Island in the south-eastern Barents Sea is one of the main nesting sites for geese in the European Russian Arctic. About 30% of the populations of three goose species breeding in the Russian Arctic and wintering in Europe nest here. The exceptionally high abundance of geese is the result of a relatively stable predation pressure due to the complete absence of rodents.

Russian Barnacle goose population has increased dramatically over the past 35 years. On Kolguev, the number of breeding Barnacle geese has also increased from single nests in the 1980s to the most numerous goose species of the island. Starting nesting on sandbars of southern Kolguev, Barnacle geese have now expanded throughout the island, occupying a wide variety of nesting habitats not previously used by this species. As a result, Barnacle geese may compete with White-fronted geese, which used to be the most numerous goose species on the island, since they can use the same habitats for nesting, rearing goslings and moulting.

Our study of breeding density and nesting success of the species in different parts of the island showed that an increase in the number of Barnacle geese affects White-fronted geese. Spatial analysis of the nest locations of the two species nesting on the same study plots showed that White-fronted geese preferred to nest more distant from Barnacle goose nests than randomly. This corroborates the hypothesis that the dispersal of Barnacle goose throughout the island may lead to a redistribution of White-fronted goose nests.

The high breeding density of many bird species on Kolguev Island highlights a high international conservation value of the island. Long-term monitoring of Kolguev ecosystems has revealed a transformation of the island ecosystem, reflecting the impact of climate change on bird populations in lemming-free ecosystem, which is a rarity in the Arctic.

2023 October: One site is more important than another – prioritizing bird conservation over their migration network

Yanjie Xu is HelLO postdoc researcher of Finnish Museum of Natural History, University of Helsinki. She studies macrospatial ecological dynamics. Under the background of global change, her current research topics include pan-European avian conservation prioritization; connectivity of global bird migration networks; disease dynamics in European birds and bats; waterbird conservation in Indian coasts; bird conservation in Finland – wetland restoration, window collision, and tick infestation; etc.

Migratory birds rely on a network of interconnected sites to complete their annual cycle. Every year, they move through these migration networks, site by site, for breeding, moulting, foraging, refueling and resting during long-distance movements, exchanging social information, etc. Meanwhile, these networks function propagule dispersal, pathogen exchange, nutrient and contaminant cycling. Conserving the connectivity of migration networks is essential for sustainability of bird populations and ecosystem services provided by their movements.Prioritizing conservation efforts for sites that have a crucial contribution to connectivity of entire migration network is an effective and efficient approach, which returns great conservation gains from protecting a small proportion of sites. However, 35% of such important sites along global bird migration routes have no coverage of protected area at all, putting a majority (~90%) of migratory bird species at risk. Also, such connectivity aspect has not yet been included as a quantitative criterion for designating protected areas in international frameworks of bird conservation. For migratory species, it is important to make conservation decisions from a network perspective, which requires intergovernmental partnerships and collaborative actions.

May webinar: The Importance of Quantitative Evaluation of Stopover Habitat Quality to the Conservation of Declining Migratory Waterbirds

The talk was given by Dr. Mu, Tong (Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University)

Migratory species are declining worldwide due to a suite of anthropogenic threats; these declines, in turn, have led to the deterioration of crucial ecosystem functions at a global scale. Unlike resident species, for which threats are usually local in nature and can therefore be addressed by local conservation measures, many migratory species travel across vast areas and may face multiple threats at different sites or life history stages. As a result, identifying the sites, stages, and threats that have the most significant impact on the population growth or size of migratory species is more challenging yet critical to effectively conserving populations of migrants. The loss or degradation of stopover sites, indispensable links during the annual movement cycles of migratory species, has been repeatedly identified as a major cause of the declines of various species. However, the effect of habitat changes on migrant populations is usually less evident compared to those of other threats, and quantifying such effects can be particularly challenging.

To address such need and challenges, we will first present a theoretical framework that may facilitate both research and on-ground conservation focusing on migratory birds at stopover sites, through (a) quantifying the present habitat use intensity as an index for relative importance of each stopover site in supporting migrant populations and (b) evaluating the carrying capacity of stopover sites to identify the potential population bottleneck that may have contributed or will lead to the decline of migratory birds. The speaker will then demonstrate the feasibility of the proposed framework using a field study focusing on shorebirds migrating along the EAAF.

Also on Bilibili:

P.S. Based on the author’s request, we are not posting the second talk on the internet.

April webinar: Coordinated conservation action to protect migratory birds – the Central Asian Flyway Initiative

Dr. Suresh Kumar (Department of Endangered Species Management at the Wildlife Institute of India)

The Central Asian Flyway comprising 30 countries is one of the nine flyways in the world and supports significant populations of a number of migratory water birds and land birds including several globally threatened and near-threatened species. Populations of these species breed in the northern latitudes of Asia from close to the Arctic coast, and almost 90% of these migrate south to the Indian Subcontinent which serves as their non-breeding destination. Many waterbird populations in the CAF region are reported to be declining as a result of habitat loss and degradation due to changing land use practices, unsustainable water management, pollution, unsustainable hunting and poaching, poisoning, and lack of law enforcement and conservation capacity. Information on how land use changes are impacting Central Asian Flyway (CAF) birds is still poorly known. One another major challenge faced with the management of migratory birds and their habitats is the spread of diseases for example avian influenza. Clearly, the abovementioned are all areas of work that require immediate attention and research, and to manage and mitigate the threats a flyway scale approach is clearly the need of the hour. This calls for working together across national borders through coordinated actions.

India has been actively involved in fostering CAF flyway cooperation and organized intergovernmental meetings in the past that have been critically important in developing and taking forward agreements and plans. The Indian Government through its Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change also developed and launched ‘India’s National Action Plan for Conservation of Migratory Birds and their Habitats along Central Asian Flyway (2018–2023)’. Since CMS CoP13, efforts for the development of an institutional mechanism to be established for the CAF have been underway so as to take forward the CAF initiative.


AFCoW special section: Predicting Seasonal Bird Migration with Birdcast

Predicting Seasonal Bird Migration with Birdcast

Dr. Kyle Horton

Assistant Professor Colorado State University Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology

Billions of animals cross the globe each year during seasonal migrations, but efforts to monitor them are hampered by the unpredictability of their movements. We developed a bird migration forecast system at a continental scale by leveraging 23 years of spring observations to identify associations between atmospheric conditions and bird migration intensity. Our models explained up to 81% of variation in migration intensity across the United States at altitudes of 0 to 3000 meters, and performance remained high in forecasting events 1 to 7 days in advance (62 to 76% of variation was explained). Avian migratory movements across the United States likely exceed 500 million individuals per night during peak passage. Bird migration forecasts will reduce collisions with buildings, airplanes, and wind turbines; inform a variety of monitoring efforts; and engage the public.

14 March Webinar talks (two parts)

Francis A. Commerçon (Yale School of the Environment)

Analysis of Wetland Prioritization for EAAF Migratory Waterbird Conservation

In the global fight against biodiversity loss, biologists rely on spatial prioritization approaches to plan allocation of limited conservation resources. I qualitatively analyze the widespread population percentage approach to wetland prioritization for migratory waterbird conservation in the EAAF and ask why connectivity-based inclusion criteria are lacking. I suggest one explanation may be how birds are valued in sub-national conservation politics. At its root, the difference in usage between population percentages and connectivity metrics might be the scale difference between counts of birds and tagged individuals. When advocating site conservation against economic interests, ecological values often must be defended using a way of thinking that fails to recognize the legitimacy of knowledge obtain from small numbers of tagged birds. Migratory connectivity is critical for the persistence of waterbird populations, yet it is understood at the scale of the individual bird. A shift toward recognizing the value of individual birds’ experiences is a first step toward achieving effective population-level conservation.

Paul Antony B (Bombay Natural History Society)

Migratory pattern of coastal birds through Kanyakumari, India with special emphasis on terns

Kanyakumari being located at the southern tip of peninsular India and at the meeting place of two seas with the Indian Ocean, this site attains significance for migratory birds that winter and pass through India. These sites act as a stopover/ refuelling site during the southward migration (August to mid-October) for the birds migrating to the southern hemisphere countries. Similarly, many species that might not have passed through this site during the southward migration occur during the northward migration (mid-February to early April). This three-decade study documented the changes in the population trends of several migratory species, especially in Crested terns. The mass movements recorded in several tern species which did not happen during northward passage indicate that the species take different migratory routes for their northward and southward journeys. The major migratory groups consist of terns followed by waders and flamingos. The dominant species during southward passage are predominantly marine terns and a small number of shorebirds. During winter the dominant groups are mostly ducks and several species of waders and flamingos. Species that utilise these sites as a stopover during northward migration are predominantly waders and marsh terns (Whiskered, Gull-billed, Little & Saunders’s terns). Habitat specialists like Grey Plover, Terek Sandpiper, Common Greenshank and Ruddy Turnstone also occur at the sites in more numbers during northward passage. Contrary to the other sites like Chilika and Point Calimere, this area supports Whiskered Tern only during the northward passage. It can currently supports the largest population of Common Terns (80,000 to 1,00,000), Lesser Crested Terns (c. 20,000), and Greater Crested Terns (c. 80,000) which stayed briefly during northward migration. The BNHS’s bird ringing studies at Kanyakumari have produced interesting recoveries on Common tern, Lesser Crested tern, and Whiskered tern.


15 February AFCoW webinar

Dr. Nyambayar Batbayar: Tracking the migration of threatened White-naped cranes from Mongolia and its conservation implications

Since 2014, we have tracked over 80 White-naped cranes from various locations at their breeding grounds in eastern Mongolia. The individuals we tracked belong to the western flyway of the species where most migrate between Mongolia and Poyang Lake. There are some clear indications about the migration divide between the two flyways. Several individuals tracked from easternmost Mongolia belonged to the eastern flyway reaching Korean Peninsula. It seems to be the two flyways are not completely separated. We have identified several key stopover sites, which we believe the species’ survival depends on them. One of them is Duolin, a site located in southern Inner Mongolia. The location was a hub for the cranes in the northern part of the range. This raises several questions, including the area’s health and introduction of infectious diseases, etc.

If you don’t have access to YouTube, please find the recording on Bilibili: