Shorebirds of the Yellow Sea

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

5. Internationally important shorebird sites in the Yellow Sea

5.2 Site accounts summary

A total of 27 sites have been identified around the Yellow Sea coastline at which at least one shorebird species has been recorded in internationally important numbers (see Figure 6 for names and locations). Ten of these sites are located in China, one in North Korea and sixteen in South Korea.

All sites, except one, consist mainly of intertidal areas that are often associated with non-tidal wetlands. The exception is an area of rice paddies in South Korea (Hongwon Ri).

Six of the ten Chinese sites, the North Korean site and a small part of one of the 16 South Korean sites are within Protected Areas. Summary information on the numbers of internationally important species and highest seasonal counts at each site is presented in Table 6.

The sites exhibit a great diversity in the number of internationally important species and shorebirds they support. Half of the sites carry at least five internationally important species, whilst six sites (Yancheng NNR, Tianjin Municipality, Huang He NNR, Mangyeung Gang Hagu, Shi Jiu Tuo and Dongjin Gang Hagu) support 15 or more. Five sites (Yalu Jiang NNR, Huang He NNR, Dongjin Gang Hagu, Mangyeung Gang Hagu and Yancheng NNR) have highest counts of greater than 100 000 shorebirds on northward migration, whilst one (Dong Sha) supports almost 250 000 shorebirds on southward migration.

The data indicate that more birds pass through South Korea during northward migration than southward, with numbers being 60% lower when birds return after the breeding season, despite the probable presence of young birds in the population. It is possible that many species may choose instead to use the Chinese coast during southward migration and the high numbers on the Jiangsu coast at this time provides support for the suggestion. However, there is evidence that some of the species which are very common during northward migration choose to bypass the Yellow Sea on southward passage, e.g. Great Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit and Grey Plover (see Species Accounts for more detail).

Some sites support high percentages of a species flyway population and Table 7 lists those sites holding >5%, >10% and >20% of the estimated flyway populations. Thus, 14 out of the 27 sites support at least one species in numbers exceeding 5% of its flyway population. Some sites carry a number of species in concentrations exceeding 5% of their flyway populations, with Yancheng NNR and the Mangyeung Gang Hagu holding the most. Sites supporting high percentages of a species flyway population have very important conservation significance. Six extremely important regions within the Yellow Sea can be identified:

  • central and northern Jiangsu coast (Yancheng NNR and Dongsha);
  • Bohai Wan (Huang He NNR, Tianjin Municipality and Shi Jiu Tuo);
  • northern Liaodong Wan (Shuangtaizihekou NNR and Linghekou);
  • Yalu Jiang NNR;
  • Namyang and Asan Mans; and
  • the Mangyeung and Dongjin estuaries.

Each of these regions supports peak numbers well in excess of 100 000 shorebirds on northward migration, whilst the Jiangsu coast holds more than 250 000 on southward migration and is also the most important area within the Yellow Sea during the non-breeding season.

Key for South Korean sites: 1 Ganghwa Do, 2 Yong Jeong Do, 3 Daebu Do., 4 Namyang Man, 5 Hongwon Ri, 6 Asan Man, 7 Seosan Reclaimed Area, 8 Geum Gang Hagu, 9 Mangyeung Gang Hagu, 10 Dongjin Gang Hagu, 11 Paeksu Tidal Flat, 12 Hampyeong Man, 13 Meian Gun Tidal Flat, 14 Aphae Do, 15 Suncheon Man, 16 Nakdong Gang Hagu.

Most of the important sites for the endangered Spotted Greenshank and vulnerable Spoon-billed Sandpiper lie within the regions listed above. Additional important sites for the Spotted Greenshank are Ganghwa Do and Suncheon Man. It is considered that every site that supports any individuals of these two species should be protected because of their extreme rarity and vulnerability to extinction.

Table 6 Sites ranked according to the number of internationally important shorebird species supported and their highest seasonal counts
Site Number of internationally important species Highest Count
Northward migration Southward migration Non-breeding season
Yancheng NNR 23 111 285 82 530 27 181
Huang He NNR 17 130 122 70 748 -
Tianjin Municipality 17 73 553 - -
Dongjin Gang Hagu 16 126 145 36 181 -
Mangyeung Gang Hagu 16 115 054 53 178 -
Shi Jiu Tuo 15 - - -
Shuangtaizihekou NNR 14 63 641 25 780 -
Dong Sha 13 72 584 244 176 44 737
Namyang Man 12 53 359 26 470 2 303
Asan Man 11 70 507 10 362 635
Yalu Jiang NNR 10 151 708 - -
Geum Gang Hagu 10 34 198 12 212 4 084
Yeong Jong Do 10 22 886 21 038 240
Ganghwa Do 9 28 715 15 317 1 183
Jiu Duan Sha 7 5 780 843 4 190
Chongming Dao PNR 6 24 770 2 889 4 871
Nakdong Gang Hagu 4 14 198 2 857 -
Suncheon Man


14 170 3 443 3 770
Aphae Do 4 12 862 9 162 606
Seosan Reclaimed Area 3 10 696 408 -
Meian Gun Tidal Flat 3 2 180 6 466 585
Linghekou 2 34 445 - -
Hampyeong Man 2 5 728 6 549 964
Daebu Do 1 - 3 668 -
Paeksu Tidal Flat 1 1 511 2 060  
Hongwon Ri 1 - - -
Mundok MBWR 1 - - -

The adjacent Mangyeung and Dongjin estuaries, which are currently being reclaimed as part of the Saemangeum Reclamation Project, are the most important South Korean sites during both northward and southward migration in terms of maximum counts and numbers of internationally important species supported. During the northward migration period, the two estuaries jointly carry 30% of the Great Knot breeding population. The estuaries also support the most significant concentrations within the Yellow Sea of the Spotted Greenshank and Spoon-billed Sandpiper during southward migration. Between them the two estuaries support the highest recorded concentrations in the Yellow Sea during northward migration of Terek Sandpiper, Great Knot and Lesser Sand Plover, and during southward migration of Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Great Knot, Dunlin, Grey Plover, Kentish Plover and Lesser Sand Plover.

Scott (1989) records a further 14 potentially important sites in China and three in North Korea which have not yet been surveyed. These sites are listed at the end of the Site Account section and they should be surveyed as a matter of priority.