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)

4.4.3 Little Curlew Numenius minutus

Subspecies None; entire global population confined to the EAAF.


Breeding: n. Siberia, from s. of Taimyr across Yakutia to w. central Chukotka.

Non-breeding: Almost wholly in grasslands in n. Australia and New Guinea.

Usage and importance of Yellow Sea

Occurrence: Near-coastal grasslands and arable areas. NM Generally recorded in small numbers (<100) in China from Chang Jiang Estuary n. to n. Liaodong Wan, except for the Huang He and Luan He deltas. In the Huang He Delta in early May 1998 it was estimated that 17 000 were present in only a small part of the preferred grassland and fallow rice field habitat (Barter et al. 1999). It is very likely that the total numbers using the Delta region are considerably higher than the May 1998 estimate. The cryptic nature of this species, especially in its preferred grassland habitat, means that it is easily overlooked. Little Curlew were frequently recorded in the Luan He Delta in April-May 2001, with the largest flock comprising 500 birds (RSPB Sabbatical Report 2002); it is believed that systematic counts could lead to large numbers of birds being found in this region (D. Allen in litt.). However, it is unlikely that Little Curlew are present in large numbers in the other coastal areas recently surveyed in China, implying that many may migrate through inland China. Rare in South Korea. SM Recorded in small numbers in China from Shi Jiu Tuo southwards. Rare in South Korea.

Movements: NM Arrivals appear to occur after early April, with birds probably flying non-stop from Australia (Lane 1987). No information is available on departure dates from the Yellow Sea, but birds arrive on breeding grounds in last ten days of May (Labutin et al. 1982). SM Reported to pass along Chinese coast in September (la Touche 1931-34), following staging in e. Mongolia (Ostapenko et al. 1980).

Significance of Yellow Sea: There is insufficient information to allow an estimate to be made of numbers occurring in the Yellow Sea.

Key sites: 1 site of international importance has been identified, during NM (see site location map below). This site supports at least 10% of the world population at this time. Status of key sites: Part of the Huang He Delta is within a Protected Area (Huang He NNR).

Major gaps in knowledge: Inland areas with suitable habitat need surveying from the Chang Jiang Estuary n. during both NM and SM. The full role of the Huang He and Luan He deltas during NM needs to be established.

Status: Passage migrant
Estimated minimum numbers:
No estimates; rare in South Korea
China: 1 (part)

Site count reference

  1. Barter et al. 1999
Site of international importance for Little Curlew (used during northward migration)
Site of international importance for Little Curlew (used during northward
  Site Country Count Ref
1 Huang He Delta China 17 000 1