Skip to content

Endangered Shorebirds? Blame Climate Change!

November 10, 2018

By Paul Homewood


h/t Dave Ward


From the “Blame it on global warming” Dept!



The Arctic is no longer the safe haven it once was for nesting birds, a new scientific report warns.

Having nests raided by predators is a bigger threat for birds flocking to breed than in the past, it shows.

This raises the risk of extinction for birds on Arctic shores, say researchers.

They point to a link with climate change, which may be changing the behaviour and habitat of animals, such as foxes, which steal eggs.

Prof Tamás Székely of the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath, UK, described the findings as "alarming".

He said fewer offspring were being produced in some bird species and these populations in future might not be sustainable.


For critically endangered species such as the spoonbill sandpiper, this could be "the last nail in the coffin", he said.

"We’re seeing the sad implication of climate change," Prof Székely told BBC News, "because our data show that the impact of climate change is involved, driving increased nest predation among these shorebirds – sandpipers, plovers and the likes."

Shore birds breed on the ground; their eggs and offspring are exposed, where they can fall prey to predators such as snakes, lizards and foxes.


The researchers looked at data collected over 70 years for more than 38,000 nests of 200 bird species, including 111 shore birds, in 149 locations on all continents.

They compared data on climate and bird populations and found a link between nest predation and climate change on a global scale, but particularly in the Arctic.

Rates of daily nest predation in the Arctic have increased three-fold in the last 70 years. A two-fold increase was found in Europe, most of Asia and North America, while a smaller change was observed in the tropics and Southern Hemisphere.

Although climate change is thought to be a key driver, the precise mechanisms are unclear, and other factors can’t be ruled out.

Dr Vojtěch Kubelka of the Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic, and a co-researcher on the study said: "The Arctic, with recently elevated rates of nest predation, is no longer a safe harbour for breeding birds. On the contrary, the Arctic now represents an extensive ecological trap for migrating shorebirds from a nest predation perspective."


I’m always puzzled by these studies claiming that a warmer Arctic is responsible for species dying out, and such like. All of these birds have been around for a very long time, during much of which the Arctic has been much warmer than now. Yet they somehow managed to thrive then.

You may also have noticed this statement:

Although climate change is thought to be a key driver, the precise mechanisms are unclear, and other factors can’t be ruled out

In other word, they have no evidence that climate change is a factor, or how it would work. But where global warming is concerned, who needs actual evidence?


There are three birds mentioned in the BBC article, so let’s check what’s been happening to them:



1) Spoonbill Sandpiper

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithlology, the Spoonbill Sandpiper breeds in northern Siberia, mainly on the Chukchi Peninsula. They then migrate down the Pacific coast of Russia, Japan, North and South Korea, and China to their main wintering grounds in Southeast Asia.

Cornell Lab are quite clear about the reasons for the bird’s decline:

Most researchers believe that two factors are responsible for the Spoon-billed Sandpipers population decline: the elimination of migratory stopover habitat, particularly in the Yellow Sea region, and subsistence hunting on the wintering grounds.

The Spoon-billed Sandpiper is one of many long-distance migrant shorebirds whose populations depend on intertidal habitats to fuel their migrations. In the Yellow Sea, large-scale reclamation projects are draining intertidal areas to convert them to other uses, particularly in rapidly developing countries like China and South Korea. The Saemangeum, the largest seawall in the world, eliminated one of the Yellow Sea’s most important shorebird refueling habitats. It typically hosted a half-million migrating shorebirds negotiating their 15,000-mile round trip journeys between the Southern Hemisphere and arctic Alaska and Russia. The Spoon-billed Sandpiper is the first of these species to be pushed to the brink of extinction, but others like the Great Knot may follow if additional development continues as planned.

At least half the world’s remaining population of Spoon-billed Sandpipers winters in Myanmar‘s Bay of Martaban, where subsistence hunting with nets is a common activity. These nets routinely capture and kill Spoon-billed Sandpipers. Hunting, carried out by the poorest of Myanmar’s people, is now considered to be the greatest immediate threat to the species.


Naturally the BBC are reluctant to blame those poor Burmese people for the bird’s likely extinction.


2) American Golden Plover

This bird breeds in northern Canada and Alaska, then migrates down to S America.

Again according to Cornell:

Market hunting in 19th and early 20th centuries caused major decline in American Golden-Plover numbers. One estimate of a single day’s kill near New Orleans was 48,000. Population rebounded after hunting ended.

The bird is not currently regarded as being endangered, despite the decline in numbers.

3) Grey Tailed Tattler

This little fellow also breeds in Siberia, before migrating to Australia, following the same route as the Spoonbill Sandpiper, down the coast of China, then via Indonesia and New Guinea.

According to the Wildscreen Arkive,

The grey-tailed tattler is not considered to be globally threatened due to its extremely large range and stable global population . This species is, however, recognised as threatened in the state of Victoria in Australia, but despite this no direct conservation efforts have been decided .

Threats to the grey-tailed tattler include wetland habitat loss and degradation on its migration route, pollution of the environment, reduced river flow, and tidal power plants and other human disturbances causing a loss of suitable habitat 

Quite why they are threatened in Victoria is a mystery, but they are evidently doing fine elsewhere. Perhaps they are a Melbourne delicacy?



However, as was mentioned above, the “flyway” from Siberia down the coast of China hosts a half-million migrating shorebirds. Large scale reclamation projects in the Yellow Sea can destroy vital refuelling points in intertidal areas, which are so important for the birds.

Factors like this and general habitat degeneration are far more likely to endanger shorebirds than any changes in the Arctic.

As for the “increased nest predation”, supposedly observed, if there are less birds returning to breed, there will be more competition amongst predators for the eggs that remain.

  1. Joe Public permalink
    November 10, 2018 7:01 pm


    The BBC headline really, really ought to be: “Climate Change. Arctic Foxes Thrive Thanks to Increased Food Availability”

  2. Adrian permalink
    November 10, 2018 7:04 pm

    Paul, please stop paying the BBC.

    You’ll enjoy yourself a lot more.

    • Mack permalink
      November 10, 2018 11:44 pm

      Ah, but how would Paul be able to do such a consistently good job of forensically dismantling and countering the alarmist and factually inaccurate memes spouting from our national broadcasting oracle, and publicising their inaccuracies, without actually viewing/listening to their doomster propaganda? “Know thine own enemy” seems a reasonable justification for spunking a licence fee up the wall even if, reluctantly, he helps fund the whole charade. As most of us do, alas. In centuries to come, no doubt, Mr Homewood will be celebrated as one of the few published voices of sanity in an increasingly topsy turvy world where the most lauded scientific methods of understanding of our natural world and climate have been well and truly corrupted by a minority of deluded activists.

  3. keith permalink
    November 10, 2018 7:32 pm

    Yeah more fake news from the BBC and no doubt CNN will follow. Boy are they both ramping up the fake news these days.

    • dave permalink
      November 10, 2018 10:29 pm

      “…ramping up the fake news.”

      What else is there in their sad little world?

  4. November 10, 2018 8:17 pm

    Facts, facts, facts. Where is the raw, unyielding angry emotion?

  5. HotScot permalink
    November 10, 2018 8:36 pm

    Twitchers. ~sigh~

  6. tom0mason permalink
    November 11, 2018 12:22 am

    Well done Paul! Exposing the fake-news generator that is the BBC again.

  7. dave permalink
    November 11, 2018 6:52 am

    This little clip is interesting:.

    It is a street scene of the singer Beverly Craven signing autographs at the entrance to the BBC. As the phone camera, or what have you, wanders about, there is visible a parked, enormously expensive motor car, with personalized number plate F4 BBC.

    That is our car. We paid for it, one way or another. Do you suppose they will let us drive it, in turns?

  8. tom0mason permalink
    November 11, 2018 7:49 am

    Dear BBC nature is red in tooth and claw, the weather and climate has always varied so either the flora and fauna either adapts (and eventually evolves to better use the changed habitat) or it perishes.
    We do not control the weather or the climate, we have some impact on it with land use change but that’s about it. In the long view the climate controls us and all we do, just wait a while till this next cool period sets in and then try to tell me it’s all our fault.

  9. Europeanonion permalink
    November 11, 2018 9:08 am

    It was our Labour government that enshrined the right of people to walk everywhere and one wonders what disturbance that has caused secretive creatures. The RSPB’s guardianship has watched over the near terminal decline of many avian species, far greater loss in numbers than hitherto. (Their reserves are more theme park than sanctuary. The concern being to give the public close-up and personal views, of creatures that may shun intrusion.) Every last scintilla of ‘wild countryside’ where I live is being covered with housing. Nature is being subverted by our humanity rather than our malignity. We are increasingly cute in our deferring of our responsibility and instead offered controls and Statist demands, rather due process we get imposition. Be told that things are urgent and stress the jeopardy and people forget about process. Not so much climate as bureaucracy and authoritarianism at the core of our loss.

  10. November 11, 2018 9:52 am

    Reblogged this on WeatherAction News and commented:
    All of these birds have been around for a very long time, during much of which the Arctic has been much warmer than now. Yet they somehow managed to thrive then

  11. A Norwich Tory permalink
    November 11, 2018 10:00 am

    “Climate change” has broad shoulders – “Climate change rain bursts Scotland’s Victorian sewers”. It’s convenient for authorities to be able to blame something outside their control – even though some areas have been seeing sewer problems for decades. I don’t recall similar complaints in England but maybe global warming has been fogging my brain.

  12. Bloke down the pub permalink
    November 11, 2018 12:59 pm

    ‘Threats to the grey-tailed tattler include wetland habitat loss and degradation on its migration route, pollution of the environment, reduced river flow, and tidal power plants and other human disturbances causing a loss of suitable habitat’

    So tidal power plants are not so green after all? Who knew?

  13. Ian permalink
    November 11, 2018 2:09 pm

    Remember the recent protest about Scottish grouse moors, supported by some raptor friendly outfit ? Don’t see their name in anything to do with bird mortality due to wind turbines. Double standards?

  14. Gamecock permalink
    November 12, 2018 2:53 am

    The arctic isn’t populated. There’s no one there. There are no weather stations.


    The BBC’s assertions are completely fabricated. A moments reflection tells you it is preposterous. But they have no time to think, the their editors are out to lunch. Permanently.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: