Record numbers of Black-faced Spoonbill stay at the Mai Po Nature Reserve this summer

Posted 20 July 2006
Bena Smith
After the migration period of last winter, when most birds leave Hong Kong and return to their summer breeding grounds, eleven Black-faced Spoonbill remained at the Mai Po Nature Reserve.

The charismatic Black-faced Spoonbill is a well-known frequent user of the Nature Reserve and both the Hong Kong public and birdwatchers make special visits to watch them. Black-faced Spoonbill are fundamentally wintering birds in Hong Kong and expected at the Mai Po Nature Reserve between late October and the end of April. The fact that “Mai Po’s Eleven”, which were aptly nicknamed by the Mai Po staff, are here in summer in such a high number, is very unusual. In the past, one or two birds are known to have stayed into the summer months, but “Mai Po’s Eleven” this summer smashes all previous Hong Kong records.

The flock is also becoming famous for their playful non-shy nature and regular posing in front of the bird-watching hides for visitors. All eleven birds are juveniles and no more than 1-year old, accounting for their youthful and energetic behaviour.

Bena Smith, WWF Hong Kong Reserve Officer, who regularly counts and studies birds on the Nature Reserve, said that, “Each day we keep expecting them to leave and fly back to Korea where the other summer Black-faced Spoonbills are, but they do not. They are obviously very happy at Mai Po, otherwise they wouldn’t stay, and as you might expect we are constantly being asked by visitors why the birds are still here.” He added, “the answer is not straightforward. Of course we would like to think our summer draining of the traditional gei wai provides plenty of food for them, but it probably also has something to do with the increased global population in recent years. Nevertheless it is a bit of a mystery, but our staff and visitors are enjoying watching them”.

“Mai Po’s Eleven” can be seen most days inside the Nature Reserve either flying between gei wai in search of food or roosting at the large open expanse of shallow water known as the ‘Scrape’.

Public interested in visiting Mai Po can join our Public Visit Programmes, please contact 2526 4473 or visit our website for details.
Bena Smith
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