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Evaluating the Impact of Headstarting on the Critically Endangered Spoon-Billed Sandpiper Calidris pygmaea

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Yakushev, NN 
Shepelev, IA 
Clements, JP 


jats:pHeadstarting is a conservation approach that suggests offering an advantage to a population by improving egg production, survival of embryos and/or juveniles. In this article, we are providing the quantitative data obtained during 10 years for different stages of headstarting (production of eggs per pair, hatching and fledging rates) and the resulting impact (survival to maturity, philopatry rate, sex ratio, apparent survival, growth/decline rate) on the local population of the critically endangered spoon-billed sandpiper. We have shown that headstarting gains are reduced over time from fledging to long-term recruitment to the local breeding population. The possible reasons for this reduction are suggested and discussed. The unexpected finding was a drastic difference in sex ratios of the new recruits, which was about even for headstarting, but strongly male-biased for wild-reared birds. We suggest this happens due to increased mortality of female chicks in nature. We have also shown only headstarting could stop the global decline of the species, particularly once the suggested improvements are implemented and the number of pairs involved is scaled up. Headstarting also had a significant social effect due to the involvement of increasing numbers of people both in the local communities in Chukotka and from many countries on the flyway into searching for marked birds and learning about waders, raising awareness about ecological problems on the East Asian–Australasian Flyway. Thus, it has made the need for conservation actions on the flyway more obvious and sensible.</jats:p>


Peer reviewed: True

Funder: Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT)

Funder: Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)

Funder: Mangrove Conservation Fund (MCF)


artificial incubation, captive rearing, apparent survival, hatching rate, fledging rate, conservation

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Russian Science Foundation (22-17-00168)
Lomonosov Moscow State University (121032300105-0)