Shorebirds of the Yellow Sea

Importance, threats and conservation status
Mark Barter
Wetlands International, 2002
ISBN 90 5882 009 2

4. Shorebirds occuring in internationally important numbers at Yellow Sea sites (continued)

4.4 Species accounts (continued)

4.4.2 Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica

Subspecies Worldwide 3 (lapponica, menzbieri and baueri); Yellow Sea 2 (menzbieri and baueri).

Distribution of L. l. baueri and L. l. menzbieri in the EAAF

Breeding: L. l. baueri, ne. Siberia, e. of R. Kolyma, and w. Alaska; L. l. menzbieri, n. Siberia, between R. Khatanga and Kolyma Delta.

Non-breeding: Coastal. L. l. baueri, mostly New Zealand and e. Australia, some on sw. Pacific Is.; L. l. menzbieri, mostly nw. Australia, also in se. China, Indonesia and Thailand.

Usage and importance of Yellow Sea

Occurrence: Intertidal areas. NM Widespread; very common along w. coast South Korea and in China from Huang He Delta n. and e. to North Korea. SM Much less common in South Korea and, probably, China. Numbers counted are probably realistic estimates of birds present in surveyed areas.

Movements: NM Peak passage of both subspecies occurs in second-half of April and early May. Both sub-species commence arriving in early April after non-stop flights from the non-breeding areas; L. l. menzbieri appears to have a more westerly migration route than L. l. baueri, although there is much overlap along the west coast of South Korea (J.R. Wilson in litt.). Leg-flag sightings in South Korea and at Yalu Jiang NNR, and observations of plumage differences at Yalu Jiang NNR, indicate a difference in timing of the two subspecies' migratory movements, with L. l. baueri passing through South Korea earlier than L. l. menzbieri and departing from Yalu Jiang for the breeding grounds by mid-May, and then being replaced at Yalu Jiang by L. l. menzbieri. This suggestion is consistent with L. l. baueri's reported arrival on the core Alaskan breeding areas in early to mid-May (McCaffery & Gill 2001). SM Peak passage takes place from mid-August to early September. All band recoveries and leg-flag sightings during this period have been of the menzbieri subspecies, confirming that few L. l. baueri, if any, use the Yellow Sea on SM and this subspecies probably flies non-stop across the Pacific to New Zealand and e. Australia (Piersma & Gill 1998).

Significance of Yellow Sea: The Yellow Sea is extremely important for this species as it supports about 80% of the combined estimated flyway populations of the two subspecies during NM; few godwits have been reported from elsewhere during this period (e.g. in Japan, the maximum count is 3 453 at 271 sites). Whilst the Yellow Sea does not seems to be important for L. l. baueri on SM, a significant portion of the menzbieri population appears to return through the region.

Key sites: 8 sites of international importance have been identified, 3 in China and 5 in South Korea; all 8 sites are important during NM and 1 during SM (see site location maps below), with the Dongjin Gang Hagu being important during both NM and SM. Yalu Jiang NNR is of particular importance, supporting 10% of the combined estimated flyway populations during NM.

Status of key sites: The 3 Chinese sites and a small part of 1 site in South Korea (Dongjin Gang Hagu) are within Protected Areas. The Dongjin and Mangyeung estuaries are currently being reclaimed as part of the Saemangeum Reclamation Project.

Major gaps in knowledge: More data on the migration strategies of the 2 subspecies. Incomplete geographical and temporal coverage in China. No information from North Korea.

L. l. baueri: 155 000
L. l. menzbieri: 170 000
Status: Passage migrant and uncommon non-breeding visitor
Estimated minimum numbers:
NM: South Korea: 35 000; China: 190 000.
SM: South Korea: 12 000.
South Korea: 5 (part of 1)
China: 3 (3)

Site count references

  1. Barter et al. 2000e
  2. Zhu et al. 2000
  3. Yi & Kim. in prep.
  4. Barter et al. 2000d
Sites of international importance for Bar-tailed Godwit (all used during northward migration)
Sites of international importance for Bar-tailed Godwit (all used during
  Site Country Count Ref
1 Yalu Jiang NNR China 51 918 1
2 Huang He NNR China 10 678 2
3 Dongjin Gang Hagu South Korea 8 430 3
4 Namyang Man South Korea 5 800 3
5 Shuangtaizihekou NNR China 3 738 4
6 Asan Man South Korea 3 500 3
7 Yeong Jong Do South Korea 3 500 3
8 Mangyeung Gang Hagu South Korea 3 350 3
Site of international importance for Bar-tailed Godwit during southward migration
Site of international importance for Bar-tailed Godwit during southward migration
  Site Country Count Ref
1 Dongjin Gang Hagu South Korea 4 845 3