Story | 17 Feb, 2023

Annual shorebird monitoring in the Gulf of Mottama

The intertidal mud flats of the Gulf of Mottama, situated in southern Myanmar, are wintering grounds for 150,000-200,000 migratory shorebirds, including the critically endangered Spoon-billed sandpipers (Calidris pygmaea), which have been monitored regularly since 2018. 

The 2023 shorebird survey was carried out in January by IUCN Myanmar country programme, in partnership with the Nature Conservation Society Myanmar along with local and international ornithologists. 

Due to the vast area of the gulf, the 5-day expedition only covered mudflats in Bilin Township, Mon State (eastern bank) and Kawa Township, Bago Region (western bank). The preliminary analysis showed a lower number of shorebirds compared to 2022, but Spoon-billed sandpipers and other endangered species such as Great Knots (Calidris tenuirostris) and Nordmann’s Greenshanks, or Spotted Greenshank (Tringa guttifer), were recorded.

As in previous years, former shorebird hunters were hired as boat skippers and guides to support the monitoring and to increase their participation in conservation activities. In addition to ex-hunters, the 2023 survey brought on six members of Local Conservation Groups (LCGs) from three townships in Mon State. The LCG members were trained on basic bird watching, bird identification and flock counting, and will apply this knowledge to SMART monitoring.

The survey emphasized the importance of regular monitoring of shorebirds to identify changes and to support effective conservation action. It also showed how scientific research can be improved through local ecological knowledge and increased community participation, which can lead to developing long-term community-based monitoring schemes. 

This work was done as part of the SDC Gulf of Mottama Project, which IUCN is implementing in collaboration with HELVETAS and Network Activities Group (NAG).