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A species of bird new to Hong Kong and mainland China found at Mai Po Nature Reserve

On 19 April, for the first time ever in Hong Kong and mainland China, a Buff-breasted Sandpiper – a “near threatened” species on the IUCN Red List – was found at a high-tide waterbird roost at Mai Po Nature Reserve.

On 19 April, for the first time ever in Hong Kong and mainland China, a Buff-breasted Sandpiper – a “near threatened” species on the IUCN Red List – was found at a high-tide waterbird roost at Mai Po Nature Reserve.
This migratory bird – which nearly went extinct in the 1920s due to hunting – belongs to the Central American Flyway. It breeds in the Arctic Circle during summer and normally migrates through the central part of Americas to reach its wintering ground on the southeast coast of South America. This is the first time the species has ever been sighted in Hong Kong; the closest place being Taiwan in the 1980s.
“Because Hong Kong is completely out of its natural range, this bird is regarded as a vagrant. However, scientists do not consider it unusual for long-distance migratory birds to turn up in unexpected locations. Historically, there have been more than 30 recorded instances of a Buff-breasted Sandpiper vagrant on the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. Possible reasons include unusual weather, such as strong monsoons; and the fact that sometimes a bird joins the flock of a related species during migration. The bird was seen by Mr Lo Chun-fai, a local birdwatcher, on the morning of 19 April but it has not been re-sighted since. This leads us to believe it continued migrating north and is on its way back to the Arctic Circle,” said Ms Katherine Leung, Senior Reserve Officer for WWF-Hong Kong.
Spring migration at Mai Po this year has been exceptionally productive, with new Hong Kong high counts being set for several species such as the Bar-tailed Godwit and the Gull-billed Tern. Besides the spectacular arrival of migratory waterbirds, spring also marks the start of the breeding season for resident species in Hong Kong. WWF is delighted to announce the natural establishment of an egretry with at least 40 pairs of Great Egrets and 10 pairs of Black-crowned Night Herons nesting in mangrove trees at the seaward end of a traditionally-managed shrimp pond. This phenomenon has not been observed at the Reserve for over 20 years. It is uncommon for these species to breed in the Deep Bay area and 12 years since the last pair of Night Herons have breed in the Bay.
“After many years of trying to get these birds to nest, we are delighted that they have made the decision to return. As the only egretry located inside the Mai Po Inner Deep Bay Ramsar Site it is important to help the birds successfully complete their breeding cycle and raise their young. This will encourage their return next year. This will be achieved by preventing human access in areas close to the egretry and by draining down a handful of shrimp ponds to provide food during the critical stage of rearing their young”, said Mr Bena Smith, WWF-Hong Kong’s Mai Po Centre Manager.
By taking part in a guided tour to Mai Po Nature Reserve, the public will be able to meet the spring migratory waterbirds and see the new egretry. For details, please visit: http://www.wwf.org.hk/en/getinvolved/gomaipo .
Buff-breasted Sandpiper profile
Scientific name: Tryngites subruficollis
Conservation status: Globally “Near threatened”
Physical features: Buff colour on head and breast; darker colour on back and crown; legs are yellow; black bill is relatively short and straight; feathers around its big black eyes are lighter in colour, making it seem as though it has an eye ring
Average Size: 20cm
Habitat: Shallow water wetlands, particularly favours inland short grassy areas
Diet: Insects and worms
Fun fact: They breed on the tundra; the male bird uses a special dance to attract a group of females
Great Egret profile
Scientific name: Ardea alba
Conservation status: Regional concern
Physical features: Large size egret with white body and long neck; facial skin is yellowish green in colour; bill is long and yellow; legs are long and black
Average size: 90cm
Habitat: Shallow coastal wetland, intertidal mudflat, fishpond
Diet: Mainly fish, sometimes shrimps and crabs
Fun fact: During breeding season, ornamental plumes are developed on the back and their facial skin turns apple green while the bill turns black
Black-crowned Night Heron profile
Scientific Name: Nycticorax nycticorax
Conservation status: Local concern
Physical features: Medium-sized; feathers on crown and back are dark blue; face and breast are white with grey colour wings; black thick bill; legs are pink.
Average size: 61cm
Habitat: Mangrove and fishpond
Diet: Mainly fish, also shrimps and frogs
Fun fact: Mainly active in evening and at night, their irises are red which enable them to see clearly under low light condition

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