Black-faced Spoonbill

Black-faced Spoonbill - background
© John and Jemi Holmes


The Black-faced Spoonbill (Platalea minor) is a large white wading bird with a distinctively shaped beak-looking like a spoon, or a “pi pa” (Chinese musical instrument). The facial skin is bare and black in colour - hence its name. It stands about 76cm high and weighs about 1kg.

Black-faced Spoonbills breed between March and September on small islands along the western coast of the Korean Peninsular to Liaoning Province, China. The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea where human access is restricted is the biggest and most successful breeding area.

In winter, Black-faced Spoonbill migrate southward to their wintering grounds. Confirmed wintering sites include: coastal areas in Mainland China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines. Taiwan and the Pearl River Delta area (Mai Po & Inner Deep Bay, Futian Nature Reserve and Macau) are the main wintering sites of Black-faced Spoonbill; together they support over 60% of the wintering population.
Black-faced Spoonbill - Threats & Action
© John and Jemi Holmes

Threats & Action

The Black-faced Spoonbill feeds on fish and shrimps in shallow water, mainly in coastal areas. Yet most of the East Asian coast is threatened by high human populations and associated agricultural and industrial activities, resulting in habitat destruction and pollution. The Tseng Wen Estuary, Taiwan is threatened by a major industrial project, and pressure on the Deep Bay area in Hong Kong continues to grow.

The Black-faced Spoonbill is only found in East Asia and, with an estimated world population of just 6,162 individuals, is classified as a globally ‘endangered' species under the IUCN’s Red List. Each year only 30 or so pairs are known to breed.

With such a small global population, Black-faced Spoonbill is inherently vulnerable to extinction. Its survival is strongly dependant upon the continued preservation and security of their main breeding grounds, availability of unpolluted coastal wetlands abundant with food in their known wintering range, and avoidance of potentially deadly diseases or infections.

On average, 20% of the global Black-faced Spoonbill population in any given year can be found wintering in Hong Kong. The Mai Po gei wai are the core roosting site for Black-faced Spoonbill, and these areas act as a central point for birds to disperse and feed. As such, WWF’s management of Mai Po plays a key role in maintaining a vital habitat for this species.